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).
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.