Financial activity of candidates remains low
The likely reason behind the slow formation of candidates’ campaign funds is their complicated usability. Costs associated with the replenishment and management of such funds outweigh the benefits they provide and force the candidates to choose support from the State budget.
As of September 7th, only 69 from 369 registered candidates opened personal campaign funds to raise money from the population.
Candidates’ low financial activity in setting up personal election funds is due to high costs of their establishment and management. By law, a candidate’s fund may not exceed the equivalent of USD 12 000, while the bureaucratic procedures for fund’s replenishment and expenditure reporting are quite laborious.
For example, bank transfers from citizens are made only upon passport registration, a candidate must submit regular reports to the CEC about the fund’s expenditures, unused funds have to be returned to the donors, contributions from Belarusian NGOs, which received assistance from abroad earlier in the year, cannot be accepted, etc.
All these regulations impact on candidates’ activity in collecting donations. In addition, an informal rule “initiative is punishable” has a valid impact: for example, a year ago, CEC Head Yarmoshyna openly voiced her negative attitude about political campaigns being funded by parties.
In these circumstances it is more feasible and less risky for the candidates to give up on their own campaign funds and to take advantage of the state budget quota allocated by the CEC in the state budget for publishing and printing of propaganda materials. Budget funding envisages BYR 5 million or approximately USD 595 for each candidate.
For example, on August 25th, the Liberal Democratic Party said it will print 2.5 leaflets using the state budget and said that would be their early victory in the elections. At the same time, the party kept silence about their success in collecting donations.
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.