NGO “Belaya Rus” [White Russia] aims for politics
On 12 August in Shklov Speaker of the upper chamber of the Belarusian Parliament of Belarus Alexander Rubinov called for the transformation of the republican public association “Belaya Rus” into a party.
The idea of transformation of an NGO “Belaya Rus” into a political party has been supported at the highest level and now waits to be approved by the President. However, even if the party is established, the likelihood of its participation in the Parliamentary elections in 2012 is low because of the growing influence of the security forces in the state apparatus in 2011.
Rubinov’s statement implies that the transformation of the NGO “Belaya Rus” into a political party is supported by the two major government authorities: Parliament and Presidential Administration. In 2006-2008 Rubinov occupied position of the Deputy Head of the PA, however since December 2010 this post is occupied by an acting Chairman of the “Belya Rus” qua-NGO Alexander Radkov, who had also advocated for the transformation of the NGO into a party previously.
The most rational argument in favour of the creation of a party of the ruling power is declining popularity of the President amid economic crisis and increased distrust of the population to the governmental bodies of Belarus. Independent polls show that the President had 35.7% of Belarusians trusting him in June (27.7% to the Parliament).
President had 35.7% of Belarusians trusting him in June (27.7% to the Parliament). The party in this case would play a role of a “safety cushion” for the government during the crisis period and with assistance of the state media propaganda would attempt to improve its image and rating.
One of the constraining factors vis-?-vis the creation of such party is general reluctance of President Lukashenko to conduct any political reforms that could undermine his authority. A party based on “Belaya Rus” qua-NGO would inevitably raise the question of its participation in the Parliamentary elections in 2012 that will require transformation of the Belarusian electoral system from proportional to majoritarian or mixed. In April 2011 the President has already strongly opposed to the reform of the kind on the eve of elections.
Another constraining factor is the sharply increasing influence of the Belarusian security forces following the events of 19 December 2010. They are interested in preserving the status quo and do not welcome new political structures in the country. The more so they are the least interested in the electoral reform, which would create grounds for the formation of political blocks in the Parliament. Current situation suits the security forces perfectly: they are already empowered to take decisions on a broad number of issues inside the government, for instance, concerning regulation of imports.
Therefore the proposal voiced by Rubinov in Shklov [hometown of President Lukashenko] will be developing by inertia. The Speaker made his statement during “dead” holiday season and will be forgotten, while President Alexander Lukashenko will continue supporting the formation of other institutions of under his authority, such as Investigation Committee.
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.