Rumors about early Parliamentary elections meant to test the loyalty of the opposition
Statements by Belarusian politicians in response to an information leak to the Russian “Kommersant” show the split of the opposition around the issue of participation in elections. The breaking point is whether to condition participation in the elections with the release of political prisoners and rehabilitation, or not.
On November 9, the Russian newspaper Kommersant, referring to an anonymous source in the Belarusian Parliament, published information that the elections to the House of Representatives might be held in April 2012.
The reaction of the leaders of the United Civil Party and the Left Party “Fair World” Mr. Lyabedzka and Mr. Kalyakin respectively on the news about possible early elections suggests that the opposition (at least registered and well-known parties) are willing to participate in the parliamentary elections and to start a dialogue with the authorities about democratization of the electoral law.
The non-registered party “Belarusian Christian Democracy” and one of its leaders Mr. Rymashevsky along with “Tell the Truth!” social movement and its leader Uladzimir Niakliaeu made strong statements against participation in the elections prior to the release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners.
“For Freedom” movement took evasive centrist position. Its leader and Chairman Mr. Milinkevich did not say anything, however his Deputy Mr. Hubarevich said the movement has not yet made the decision about participation in the elections while there were political prisoners, however expressed their willingness to participate in the elections if the political system of Belarus becomes a subject to democratization and liberalization.
Therefore on the eve of the Parliamentary elections in Belarus there are two main streams in the Belarusian political camp. On the one hand, there are “reasonable critics” among the medium and large political parties who are willing to participate in elections under certain conditions (liberalization of laws on elections), and who do not threaten the authorities with a boycott of the election campaign. On the other hand, there are the so-called “new wave” politicians with more radical views (BChD, “Tell the truth!”).
The organizers of the information leak received a fairly clear picture of what oppositional political forces occupied a constructive position vis-?-vis the legitimacy of the parliamentary elections in 2012, an issue the most important for the authorities. Regardless of when the elections take place - in April or September - the Belarusian authorities will use this campaign as a stake in the next round of bargaining with the West and, most likely, while negotiating for a new IMF loan.
Regardless of when the elections take place - in April or September - the Belarusian authorities will use this campaign as a stake in the next round of bargaining with the West and, most likely, while negotiating for a new IMF loan.
In order to prepare for bargaining, it is particularly important for the authorities to know that opposition politicians do not plan to organize a joint boycott campaign and ensure the domestic legitimacy of the elections with their participation. Apparently it was the main purpose of the information leak published by Kommersant, i.e. to clarify the situation with the boycotting of the elections by the opposition. In fact, the opposition parties were also interested in finding out the format of the upcoming campaign, therefore the provocative article by Kommersant caused a generous stream of public statements by top personas of the Belarusian opposition.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.