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United opposition mired in discussion over ‘single candidate’ nomination

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April 22, 2016 18:53

Drawn-out discussions on minor procedural issues are lowering the likelihood of a single opposition candidate being selected for the 2015 presidential election. What is more, none of the opposition party can guarantee its candidate the status of ‘single candidate’ without allying with another. If consensus is not reached soon, some participants may leave the negotiating table.

The next presidential elections may be held anytime until November 2015, however, it is still not clear who will contest President Lukashenko in 2015.

The united opposition has repeatedly rescheduled the date for making a final decision on how to select a single candidate for the 2015 presidential election. They have long decided on the format, i.e. electing a ‘single candidate’ at the Congress of Democratic Forces, but cannot reach a consensus about the Congress delegates’ nomination mechanisms.

Seven major political parties and movements are taking part in the negotiations: four members of the “People’s Referendum” coalition, two members of the “Talaka” coalition, and one from the non-registered party Belarusian Christian Democracy. Some opposition structures have already determined their potential contenders for the ‘single candidate’ status.

"Tell the truth!" leader, Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu was the first to announce his presidential ambitions. He has the highest rating among other opposition politicians, and his nomination was also supported by the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Gromada).

United Civic Party leader Alexander Lebedko, who narrowly missed out on becoming the democratic forces’ single candidate in 2006, announced his presidential ambitions. However, UCP’s partner from the ‘Talaka’ coalition – the Leftist Party "Fair World" – has yet to make any public statement either in support of the UCP leader, or to nominate their own candidate.

Moreover, among the former communists (‘Fair World’) pro-Russian sentiments are rather strong, unlike in other opposition organisations. After events in Ukraine, cooperation between Fair World and the remaining opposition during the presidential campaign and their consensus about Belarus’ geopolitical interests is highly unlikely. In addition, pro-European movements - "For Freedom" and the Belarusian Popular Front, are likely to nominate their own candidates for the ‘single candidate’ status.

As anticipated, the contradictions and competition between the opposition structures are heightening as leaders vying for ‘single candidate’ status amass. In addition, consultations about the Congress’ procedural issues have stalled. The opposition leaders strongly doubt the electoral success of whoever is selected to be the ‘single candidate’, which significantly reduces their motivation to unite. Each opposition party also fears that all donor resources will be concentrated in the single candidate’s hands and his/her supporting structures - at the expense of other coalition partners.

As negotiations about procedural issues stall, the likelihood of choosing a ‘single candidate’ at the Congress reduces. If consensus within the opposition is not achieved soon, some coalition members might start quitting the negotiations. 

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