Strategic split within the Belarusian opposition into political and civic campaigns
On May 7, the court sentenced the deputy head of Tell the Truth! campaign Andrei Dzmitryeu and a member of the board Mikhail Pashkevich to 10 days in custody. On May 11, at the press- conference a co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party Vital Rymasheuski, “European Belarus” coordinator Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, a co-chairman of the organising committee for creation of the Belaruski Rukh (Belarusian Movement) party Viktar Ivashkevich, made a joint statement on boycotting the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The arrest of two activists of the civil campaign Tell the Truth! is not linked to their political pre-election activity. The measures taken by the state are more likely to be connected to the public projects of Tell the Truth!, such as a protest against the construction of the Chinese technological park in the Smolevichi district as well as the “Civil agreement” campaign (deals with solving social and everyday problems on citizens’ appeals)
All these projects go far beyond the traditional patterns of behavior within the opposition forces, in particular, on the format of participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections. As a result, civil society activists greatly expand their field of activity by addressing social issues (e.g., control over the privatisation, protection of property and civil rights of citizens, etc.). At the same time, by extending their activity beyond the election campaign, they prolong their political life.
Thus, on April 30, the leader of the civil campaign \"Tell the Truth!\" Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu said that the campaign has a long-term goal for 2015-2016. However, it should be mentioned that none of the conventional opposition movements declare such long-term perspectives.
More radical political actors “Belarusian Christian Democracy,\" \"European Belarus\" and \"Belaruski rukh\" (Belarusian Movement) stick to short-term tactics of boycotting the upcoming elections. Other well-known opposition parties such as “Just World\" and the United Civil Party act in a similar manner. Although they both have the opposite attitude to boycotting the elections, neither of them has declared any clear post-election strategy.
Thus, it could be said that the parliamentary election of 2012 will play a crucial role in splitting the Belarusian opposition into two major groups of strategic and tactical actors. The former ones are registered and unregistered parties and movements (the UCP party “A Just World”, \"Belarusian Christian Democracy,\" \"European Belarus\", \"Belaruski rukh\", etc.) The latter include new civic campaigns that do not limit their activity to participation in the elections and seek to implement long-term strategies of civic engagement (\"Tell the Truth!\", the \"For Freedom\" Movement).
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.