Opposition follows track set by parliamentary campaign
Belarusian opposition remains divided along the same lines as after the autumn parliamentary elections. This split impacts the attitude towards both, the 2015 presidential election and activities in between elections. The forecast is that the split of the opposition into at least two blocks will remain until the presidential election.
In early January, the Belarusian Popular Front, the “For Freedom” and “Tell the Truth!” movements started consultations about a single candidate for the 2015 presidential election. The appearance in early 2013 of the ‘triplex’ coalition of one political party and two major social movements gives them a temporary head start to prepare for the campaign.
In turn, opposition parties that have not yet decided about their pre-election tactics, risk falling into a temporal trap and may not have the time to implement their initiatives. This is especially true for the United Civil Party, which has already proposed a procedure for determining a single opposition candidate via so-called primaries however it has not yet found allies to implement this project.
Among other proposals related to the selection process of a single candidate and forming a single coalition were: holding Coordinating Council meeting, Popular Assembly and Congress of Democratic Forces. However they all were discarded. Today opposition politicians incline towards ‘small’ coalitions based on personal and corporate connections, rather than contract binding broad opposition coalition.
Thus, in early 2013, the Belarusian opposition can be divided into three groups. The first group unites supporters of participation in the presidential election in the single candidate format (‘triplex’). The second group is yet undecided about participation in the elections in a single-candidate format. This group, however, has solidarity regarding the politicians and journalists disappeared in 1999-2000 - an extremely sensitive issue for the ruling group.
On January 24th, the UCP Party invited all democratic forces to recall the disappearances of politicians and journalists in Belarus in 1999-2000 and received a positive feedback from the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy and the “Fair World” Party. It will be recalled that in December 2012 former head of Minsk detention center No 1 and political refugee Mr. Alkayev said that he had new evidence that could shed light on the disappearances.
Finally, the most radical opposition immigration focuses primarily on the information work. The organizing committee head of the National Revival Council Mr. Borodach runs his analytical campaigns in the internet, which do not find response from the opposition politicians in Belarus. Former presidential candidate and political refugee Mr. Sannikov also limits to interviews in European media, without making any policy statements and acts primarily as an expert on foreign policy towards Belarus.
Since there are no attempts of rapprochement between the different blocs and, in fact, there are no grounds for it, most likely outcome will be the nomination of several candidates from different political blocs. Apparently, the issue of a single opposition candidate should be removed from the agenda.
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.