Opposition coalitions form according to core-periphery model
On May 20th, in Minsk, the opposition coalition, so-called “Trio” - the BPF, “For Freedom” Movement and “Tell the Truth!” - announced the launch of a joint ‘Popular Referendum’ campaign.
Important opposition group has launched a long-term strategy for joint action. Inside the Belarusian opposition two coalitions continue shaping up - the “rightist” and “leftist”. Simultaneously, political periphery forms from various parties and groups within Belarus and abroad.
The “Trio” management emphasized the informal nature of their coalition, implying they created a platform for coordination of joint political action, rather than merging parties and programmes. The coalition’s peculiarity is its long-term cooperation. Participants plan to cooperate in the next three political campaigns: 2013-2014 local elections, 2015 presidential elections and 2016 parliamentary elections.
Content wise, the “National Referendum” is still uncertain. During summer, its initiators plan to tour 30 Belarusian cities to meet with the electorate and to formulate the most pressing social and political issues. Then, during the local elections, they will launch a petition campaign for a referendum on issues identified after consultations with citizens and experts. The collected signatures will be used to put pressure on the government to speed up political transformations. Coalition members do not rule out the potential nomination of a coalition’s single candidate for the presidential elections.
Thus, currently, at least two coalitions form within the Belarusian opposition: so-called “rightist” (“Trio”) and so-called “leftist” (Leftist Platform). The “Trio” coalition seems to have better coordination, as it has already presented a coherent approach to foreign and domestic policies (in its recent statement “Greater Europe for Belarus”).
Finally, there is a variety of political parties and organizations outside the coalition process. Firstly, the United Civic Party, which single-handedly promotes its “primaries” project (the principle of defining a single candidate in the presidential elections), and secondly, a number of non-registered organizations in Belarus and in exile, which, with varying degrees of radicalism call for the elections’ and regime’s boycott.
The latter include the Belarusian Christian Democracy Organizing Committee (Mr. Rymashevski), European Belarus campaign (Mr. Sannikov). As anticipated, they negatively reacted to the “Trio’s” initiative. In particular, Sannikov accused the “Trio” members of an attempt to legitimize the dictatorship, Rymashevski called the project ‘hazy’, Belarusian Social Democratic Gromada Chairman Shushkevich called “Trio’s” initiative a nonsense, and CCP BPF Chairman Pozniak – ‘a joke’. Alternatively, the media welcomed the “Trio’s” idea.
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.