Upcoming parliamentary elections
On 21 April the President Lukashenko delivered his annual address to the National Assembly and the Belarusian people. Among other issues, the Head of state said, Belarus would not change the election system to proportional before the Parliamentary elections in 2012.
The explicit statement about the Belarusian electoral system should be interpreted unambiguously: the next parliamentary elections will be held in the traditional majoritarian format.
In the course of the past six months and particularly after the December appointment of Mr. Radzkou as the First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, experts and nomenclature had lively discussions about the possibility of creation of a large political party in Belarus for Lukashenko or his likely successor. There were high chances that the Republican Public Association “Belaya Rus”, headed by Mr. Radkov, a former Education Minister and a proxy of Alexander Lukashenko during the presidential election in 2010, would be used as a base for the party.
If this movement was converted into a party, the structure of the “Belaya Rus” (110,000 members as of today), its members (nomenclature, Deputies, businesses closely linked with the government), as well as tangible governmental support would create indisputably favourable conditions for the party to gain the majority in the Parliament, and the monopolized state media would ensure a powerful channel for manipulation of the public opinion.
Transition to the proportional electoral system will require amendments of the Electoral Code, as well as of the Belarusian Constitution. Article 72 of the Constitution provides for the revocation of an individual MP, impossible in case of voting on party lists. The President has the right to initiate constitutional amendments by submitting a proposal to the Parliament. Experts of the portal “Our Opinion” (http://nmnby.eu/) believe, the implementation of the initiative will take 5 to 9 months, i.e. it could still be put into action prior to the election campaign in 2012.
It is obvious that Lukashenko is in no hurry to change the electoral rules and is not ready to share power with his supporters and associates.
The history of the development of the political system in Belarus shows, the political (presidential) power is traditionally distanced from the political parties. The most recent example is the withdrawal of the loyal to the President Liberal Democratic Party and its leader Mr. Gaidukevich from the Parliamentary elections in 2008 and from the presidential race of 2010.
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.