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.
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.