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.
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.