Financial activity of candidates remains low
The likely reason behind the slow formation of candidates’ campaign funds is their complicated usability. Costs associated with the replenishment and management of such funds outweigh the benefits they provide and force the candidates to choose support from the State budget.
As of September 7th, only 69 from 369 registered candidates opened personal campaign funds to raise money from the population.
Candidates’ low financial activity in setting up personal election funds is due to high costs of their establishment and management. By law, a candidate’s fund may not exceed the equivalent of USD 12 000, while the bureaucratic procedures for fund’s replenishment and expenditure reporting are quite laborious.
For example, bank transfers from citizens are made only upon passport registration, a candidate must submit regular reports to the CEC about the fund’s expenditures, unused funds have to be returned to the donors, contributions from Belarusian NGOs, which received assistance from abroad earlier in the year, cannot be accepted, etc.
All these regulations impact on candidates’ activity in collecting donations. In addition, an informal rule “initiative is punishable” has a valid impact: for example, a year ago, CEC Head Yarmoshyna openly voiced her negative attitude about political campaigns being funded by parties.
In these circumstances it is more feasible and less risky for the candidates to give up on their own campaign funds and to take advantage of the state budget quota allocated by the CEC in the state budget for publishing and printing of propaganda materials. Budget funding envisages BYR 5 million or approximately USD 595 for each candidate.
For example, on August 25th, the Liberal Democratic Party said it will print 2.5 leaflets using the state budget and said that would be their early victory in the elections. At the same time, the party kept silence about their success in collecting donations.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.