Opposition’s negotiations over single candidate nomination are futile
The Belarusian opposition has not chosen a single candidate for the 2015 presidential elections due to the lack of a clear leader. The single candidate nomination process is delayed, increasing chances for a re-play of the 2010 scenario with a large number of candidates and fragmented resources for campaigning. Nevertheless, it is likely that amid events in Ukraine, the lack of resources and the low motivation among the opposition could prompt the opposition parties to form blocks in order to nominate their candidates as a matter of compromise.
The opposition parties held a poll among its members to rank the potential ‘single candidates’ from the opposition.
The leading opposition parties taking part in talks over nomination procedures for a single candidate in the 2015 elections have yet to reach an agreement on procedural matters. Meanwhile, the Congress of Democratic Forces is scheduled to take place in December 2014 – January 2015.
The elections are drawing closer, but the opposition still has time to hold the Congress and nominate a single candidate for the 2015 elections. While talking to the Russian regional media, President Lukashenko said that the presidential elections were planned for autumn 2015, but the presidential administration was also considering holding elections in March next year.
The main contenders for the single candidate status have already been identified. For example, the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) supports Aliaksandr Milinkevich, leader of the For Freedom movement as a contender for the 2015 elections. A presidential candidate in 2006, Milinkevich expressly supports a pro-Europe path for Belarus, and totally ignores the Russian vector in the foreign policy. Amid the Russian aggression in Ukraine BPF and For Freedom leaders made statements, prioritising the preservation of Belarus’ independence and sovereignty over democracy and human rights issues.
The “Tell the Truth!” movement, the BPF and For Freedom, who have teamed up for the ‘People’s Referendum’ initiative, have proposed to mitigate the strategy of tough confrontation with the Belarusian authorities, especially in view of growing threats from the Kremlin (potential external interference and destabilisation of the situation in the country). The partners in the ‘People’s Referendum’ campaign aim to initiate long-term changes in certain priority areas by prompting the government to take part in a dialogue “with society using pressure “from below”. “Tell the Truth!” leader, Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, a presidential contender in 2010, would be willing to give up his presidential ambitions in the upcoming elections as long as a single candidate was proposed who was ready to promote the idea of the People’s Referendum, in other words, to support a strategy for long-term peaceful democratic reform.
Due to the delays in coordinating the nomination process for a single candidate, the opposition parties have started coming up with other initiatives, and “self-promoted” candidates are also cropping up. Back in May, the United Civil Party proposed to nominate the UCP leader Lebedko as a presidential candidate, however the latter said he was willing to compromise. Some Zhodino-based NGOs and initiatives proposed to nominate former MP and deputy chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) General Frolov as a presidential candidate. Even before that, Anisim, Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Language Society said he was willing to take part in the presidential race.
However, amid events in Ukraine and Belarus’ reluctance to repeat the experience of 2010, many opposition activists lack motivation to participate in political campaigns and change the regime through mass protests. As a result, the human resources of the opposition politicians in 2015 campaign may be scarcer than in 2010.
If, in the near future, the opposition does not agree on the nomination procedure for electing a single candidate in the 2015 presidential elections, the number of potential candidates will increase. However, not all of them will ultimately take part in the presidential race.
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.