The Russian Duma elections in the context of Russo-Belarusian relations
The results of the Duma election campaign, and the protests against vote-rigging that sprung up throughout Russia on December 10, will also affect Belarusian-Russian relations. Inside the Duma, the reinforced position of the CPRF and A Just Russia duo could lead to new media conflicts between the Kremlin and Lukashenko.
The results of the Duma election campaign, and the protests against vote-rigging that sprung up throughout Russia on December 10, will also affect Belarusian-Russian relations. Inside the Duma, the reinforced position of the CPRF and A Just Russia duo, which are led by Lukashenko’s main lobbyists, could lead to new media conflicts between the Kremlin and Lukashenko.
One factor which prevented the ruling party United Russia from gaining a constitutional majority, or even a simple majority, was a coordinated information campaign by the non-Kremlin parties, whose key pre-election message called on the electorate to vote for anyone but the ruling party United Russia. Moreover, numerous leaders from the liberal camp made direct calls to vote for their ideological rivals, the Communists, since they had the best chances of getting into the Duma.
This example could serve as an inspiration for the Belarusian opposition but, so far, Belarusian opposition leaders have never really attempted to analyse and adapt their Russian counterparts’ experience.
During the run-up and post-election periods, the duo’s harsh statements regarding America and the international community gave Aleksandr Lukashenko hope that conflicts would resurface between Russia and America. Lukashenko feels that if Russia is opposed to America, it will have greater need of Belarus as a military and political partner, thus allowing him to demand preferential treatment for his loyalty.
To a certain extent, this is a fair assessment. However, the CPRF and A Just Russia’s improved position may induce an undercurrent of conflict between the Kremlin and Lukashenko. This is because Lukashenko’s traditional lobbyists in Russia are concentrated inside those parties. During the years of United Russia’s undivided domination, Lukashenko was forced to refrain from his attempts to enter Russian internal politics, relying mostly on the Kremlin and the duo’s mutual relations. However the CPRF and A Just Russia’s current position will make it very tempting for him to run in the campaign as part of the anti-Kremlin opposition. Such a game will inevitably make the Kremlin embark on a media war, and eventually bring about conflicts in the economic sector. The risks of getting involved in the Russian campaign should prevent Lukashenko from succumbing to temptation, but the rather reckless, careless foreign policies of his eldest son Viktor’s team might make the Belarusian leadership act without due caution.
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.