No party of power will be created in Belarus
On October 19, Chairman of the quango “Belaya Rus” Mr.Radkov announced that it would not be transformed into a political party.
Belarusian nomenclature elites submitted to President Lukashenko’s decision. However, it does not necessarily mean that no other party of power will be established in Belarus before the next parliamentary elections of 2016. “Belaya Rus” will focus its effort on work with electorate instead.
The decision which Radkov voiced means that a group of public servants from Lukashenko’s milieu have not acquired sufficient influence over him. Thus, “Belaya Rus” is not capable of lobbying the issue of transforming their organisation into a political party. Moreover, they are obviously not in a position to decide on the transition from the current majority electoral system to proportional or mixed.
As a result, the question of political prospects for “Belaya Rus” has been postponed, at least until the next parliamentary election of 2016.
It is worth noting that the precedent of October 19 grants the head of state unwritten rights to close the issue of electoral reform in the Republic of Belarus due to the fact that at present there is no socio-political entity which could be compared to “Belaya Rus” in terms of size and influence, and could initiate political reform.
In terms of image, the precedent clearly illustrates that lobbyists from “Belaya Rus” have been defeated. For several years, they have aimed to raise the status of their organisation, voicing this idea both publically and behind the scenes. First and foremost these were Mr. Radkov, who is also First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, as well as Information Minister of Belarus, Oleg Proleskovsky, and Chairman of Council of the Republic, Anatoly Rubinov.
As a result, activists from “Belaya Rus” have to put up with their dwindled ambitions and focus on their traditional social activities, namely, promoting the state policy and supporting governmental initiatives in practice.
“Belaya Rus” will most likely participate in other election campaigns, to local Councils of Deputies in 2014 as well as in the 2015presidential elections where, according to Radkov, it will represent “a President’s majority”. This will be achieved by providing infrastructural support for the desirable candidates (a network of public receptions, “Belaya Rus”, mass media etc.
There is a possibility that “Belaya Rus” will use the Russian Popular Front established by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a role model for further development. On October 18, Putin doubted the expediency of transforming the Front into a political party as he believes it will immediately limit the scope of its activities. However, there is a significant difference between “Belaya Rus” and the Russian Popular Front. The initiative to establish the former came not from Lukashenko, but from Belarusian nomenclature and was viewed as a tool to control civil society. These two facts allow President Lukashenko to disparage the political ambitions of “BR” members.
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.