Prospects for leftist parties’ coalition in Belarus
On February 17th, a meeting of representatives from a number of left-wing parties and movements took place in Minsk.
Centrifugal processes continue developing inside the opposition, reflected in formation of different coalitions. Special feature of the newly forming leftist coalition is its promising ideological core - protection of workers’ rights - and the corresponding target group, which is poorly represented at the political level.
The event was attended by representatives of the Belarusian Green Party, the Belarusian Left Party “Fair World”, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Gramada), independent trade unions and informal media and youth projects. The meeting discussed the possibility of nominating a single candidate from the leftist forces in the 2015 presidential elections.
Despite of its ‘framework’ nature, the meeting of the Belarusian leftists was significant for several reasons. First, it was an attempt by a number of political actors to come together based on an ideological issue, and not based on resources or leaders’ personal connections. Second, participants positioned themselves primarily not against Lukashenko’s regime, but in relation to a particular social group, i.e. wage workers whose social rights should be protected from successive narrowing.
Such an “ideological” principle for coalition building is, at least, non-conventional. Other opposition coalitions today are built primarily on the basis of resources and personnel, as well as through boycotts or dialogue with the authorities. As a result, ideologically close counterparts find themselves on different sides of the political divide. For example, the UCP party and the organizing committee of BCD on the one hand, and the “Tell the Truth!” movement and BPF on the other hand, let alone the “European Belarus” campaign, which is controlled from abroad and is the most radical vis-à-vis the current government, and their colleagues in the opposition.
The potential leftist coalition’ success depends primarily on the resources and personal factors: whether the participants will be able to find the necessary human and financial resources for the local and presidential election campaigns, and whether they will develop loyalty, sufficient for long-term cooperation.
The financial crisis in Belarus in 2011 demonstrated that the left-wing parties and independent trade unions in Belarus were not able to mobilize employees, whose standards of living had fallen sharply. In 2012 they also had not increased their activities after the scandalous Decree No 9 took effect.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.