The process of collecting signatures is not accompanied by the pressure from the authorities so far
Central Election Committee has registered eight initiative groups of candidates for presidency.
The authorities have been easy on the registration of the initiative groups and de-facto registered all the candidates which didn’t commit serious violations of the election law. Besides, there is no pressure or countermeasures from the part of authorities on the campaigns of the alternative candidates. However, Belarusian authorities still prevent both opposition and human rights activists from controlling the organization of the elections.
Earlier the head of the Central Elections Committee Lidziya Yarmoshyna defined a possible number of the participants of the first round of the presidential campaign. According to her, five more initiative groups had chances for registration in addition to three quickly registered initiative groups.
At the same time the majority of the unregistered initiative groups tried to appeal against the decision of the Central Election Committee, however, with no luck. The Supreme Court dismissed three appeals and didn’t proceed with two more civil cases.
According to Maria Adamovich the initiative group of the ex-candidate and a political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich plans to gather signature in his support despite the refusal to register the group. At the same time the election law does not have clear rules on a possible registration of an initiative group for a candidate with criminal history on record. However, the authorities decided to prevent opposition from campaigning in support of political prisoners.
Only 15% of the members of the opposition parties which were nominated to local election committees managed to get into them. According to the party observers from the “Pravo Vybora” campaign only 12% of the nominated candidates were included to the local election committees. The total number of the members of the precinct electoral commission is 1989. It is worth mentioning that the majority of applications from the political parties and NGOs which are loyal to the authorities were approved. Members of opposition underline that they have not concentrated upon the nomination of their candidates to local and regional electoral commissions since the most violations of the election law take place at the ballot stations.
The authorities fulfilled the requirements of the law in regards to the quota of the presence of the members of NGOs and parties in the electoral commissions (1/3 of the commission). More than 55% of the members of the election committees are the members of the NGOs and political parties (7.8% are from political parties). Local executive committees used traditional explanations on the non-inclusion of opposition to the precinct electoral commissions – lack of permanent employment, lack of the experience of participation in local electoral commissions and a violation of the order of nomination.
So far the authorities do not put pressure on the members of the opposition which registered their initiative groups. Three alternative candidates have already opened accounts for electoral funds. Initiative groups in Minsk and major cities have already started to collect signatures. So far, this process goes without any provocations. At the same time the authorities are ready to crack down on any actions of the opposition which step over the bounds of the electoral campaign. In such a manner an activist of the “Alternativa” NGO registered in Latvia who tried to protest in front of the Central Election Committee was detained.
Besides, the incumbent president has changed his election slogans and rhetoric trying to meet the expectations of the electorate. The gathering of signatures in support of the candidacy of Lukashenka started under the slogan “For a future of independent Belarus”.
The state lacks the funds to increase the income of the population before the elections. President Lukashenka has only promised to find funds in order to increase pensions by 5% from September 1st. The head of the state underlined that this year there would not be an increase of wages, and the state would only be able to guarantee the current level of income: “But this is right, these are the laws of economics, you cannot run from them. In such difficult times no state plays around with these issues. If the wages are not so big, it means that the pensions are also tied to the wages.”
In such a manner, one cannot exclude the possibility of increasing repressions against alternative candidates with the growth of interest of the population to the presidential campaign.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.