Single candidate from democratic forces unlikely to be nominated before year-end

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April 22, 2016 18:51

Influenced by events in Ukraine, and with Belarus facing the threat of losing independence in the process of Eurasian integration, the Belarusian opposition has stepped up talks about nominating a single opposition candidate. However, the opposition parties and movements do not have a common vision or strategy for winning the elections in Belarus, which bars them from uniting around a strong opposition leader. As the ‘Ukrainian factor’ wears thin and Election Day draws nearer, contradictions and competition among the opposition structures around ‘a single opposition candidate’ will strengthen.

On May 19th, Belarus’ opposition leaders held regular consultations concerning the election of a single opposition candidate for the 2015 presidential elections.

Most opposition structures reached an agreement that a single candidate would be nominated and elected by the Congress of Democratic Forces. They are still to determine the Congress’ date. The presidential elections in Belarus should be held no later than November 20th, 2015. Meanwhile, the opposition leaders failed to agree on how to nominate Congress’ participants, who would actually vote for a single opposition candidate. Each opposition party seeks to have the most advantageous procedures for nominating its members to the Congress, regardless of the plans to nominate its candidate as ‘a single candidate’. 

Currently, only two opposition parties have publicly announced their intention to nominate a single candidate – “Tell the Truth!” (Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu) and the United Civic Party (Anatoly Lebedko). “For Freedom” Movement has started to prepare to nominate its candidate as ‘a single candidate’

Interestingly, after the Ukrainian events, ‘the European choice’ has considerably lost popularity among the Belarusian population. Nevertheless, the Belarusian opposition parties and movements remain committed to European integration. They have not developed any strategies on how to build relations with Russia after Belarus joins the Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU).

The ‘People’s Referendum’ initiators reacted negatively to Belarus signing the EaEU founding treaty. In a joint statement, they called for "increasing ties with the European Union", and underscored that the Eurasian integration project “is not a union of peoples, but a union of leaders, in essence, a conspiracy”.

Almost all major opposition players uphold this position, except the former communists, the United Leftist Party “Fair World” and some marginal opposition groups. The “Fair World” members welcomed the Soviet-style rapprochement, and assessed events in Ukraine along the lines of Kremlin propaganda. “Fair World” leader, Vladimir Kalyakin, has not yet publicly announced his presidential ambition, but he is a likely contender for ‘a single opposition candidate’ status.

So far, the Belarusian authorities have managed to control pro-Russian moods in society and prevented a strong leader, who could compete with President Lukashenko, from emerging. However, among the pro-Russian electorate there is a significant group which does not trust President Lukashenko and is discontent about the pace of Eurasian integration.

The Congress of Democratic Forces, at which a single candidate from the opposition will be nominated, may be held in late 2014 - early 2015. Most major opposition groups in Belarus are committed to holding such a congress and are ready to participate in it.

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