Traditional flow of the Parliamentary campaign
Authorities’ actions prove the election campaign will be held as usual. Authorities are interested in neither changing the traditional format of the parliamentary campaign, nor the Parliaments’ role in the political system.
On July 23rd, at a meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives Vladimir Andreichenko, President Lukashenko said he would like to see one third of ‘old’ MPs in the new Parliament and advised on adequate employment for outgoing MPs.
One-third has been a ‘conventional’ ratio for the Belarusian Parliamentary elections for the past twelve years. Despite the fact that this quota is informal and is not formalized by a law, the usual practice is that a new Parliament has about 34% of the Deputies of previous convocation.
In February 2012 the Speaker talked about a record low quota of 20-25% during a similar meeting. This suggested that the authorities had some plans for political system reform, mentioned by the President in an interview with Chinese media in January 2012. However, the details of the reforms have never been made public.
At the same time, formation of candidates’ initiative groups’ statistics shows that MPs focus on the ‘February’ quota. As of July 23rd 24 acting Deputies have been nominated to run for the elections, that is, approximately 22%. All in all, there are 110 Deputies in the lower house of the Belarusian Parliament.
The increase of this informal succession quota to traditional levels could indicate that President’s environment would like to reduce any risks during this election campaign and to hold it without any changes. Foreign Minister Martynov’s visit to Rome for a meeting with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman indirectly confirms this assessment, as well as the invitation of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission to Belarus.
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.