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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.