United opposition mired in discussion over ‘single candidate’ nomination
Drawn-out discussions on minor procedural issues are lowering the likelihood of a single opposition candidate being selected for the 2015 presidential election. What is more, none of the opposition party can guarantee its candidate the status of ‘single candidate’ without allying with another. If consensus is not reached soon, some participants may leave the negotiating table.
The next presidential elections may be held anytime until November 2015, however, it is still not clear who will contest President Lukashenko in 2015.
The united opposition has repeatedly rescheduled the date for making a final decision on how to select a single candidate for the 2015 presidential election. They have long decided on the format, i.e. electing a ‘single candidate’ at the Congress of Democratic Forces, but cannot reach a consensus about the Congress delegates’ nomination mechanisms.
Seven major political parties and movements are taking part in the negotiations: four members of the “People’s Referendum” coalition, two members of the “Talaka” coalition, and one from the non-registered party Belarusian Christian Democracy. Some opposition structures have already determined their potential contenders for the ‘single candidate’ status.
"Tell the truth!" leader, Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu was the first to announce his presidential ambitions. He has the highest rating among other opposition politicians, and his nomination was also supported by the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Gromada).
United Civic Party leader Alexander Lebedko, who narrowly missed out on becoming the democratic forces’ single candidate in 2006, announced his presidential ambitions. However, UCP’s partner from the ‘Talaka’ coalition – the Leftist Party "Fair World" – has yet to make any public statement either in support of the UCP leader, or to nominate their own candidate.
Moreover, among the former communists (‘Fair World’) pro-Russian sentiments are rather strong, unlike in other opposition organisations. After events in Ukraine, cooperation between Fair World and the remaining opposition during the presidential campaign and their consensus about Belarus’ geopolitical interests is highly unlikely. In addition, pro-European movements - "For Freedom" and the Belarusian Popular Front, are likely to nominate their own candidates for the ‘single candidate’ status.
As anticipated, the contradictions and competition between the opposition structures are heightening as leaders vying for ‘single candidate’ status amass. In addition, consultations about the Congress’ procedural issues have stalled. The opposition leaders strongly doubt the electoral success of whoever is selected to be the ‘single candidate’, which significantly reduces their motivation to unite. Each opposition party also fears that all donor resources will be concentrated in the single candidate’s hands and his/her supporting structures - at the expense of other coalition partners.
As negotiations about procedural issues stall, the likelihood of choosing a ‘single candidate’ at the Congress reduces. If consensus within the opposition is not achieved soon, some coalition members might start quitting the negotiations.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.