The opposition has no resources to protect the elections’ fairness and transparency
The opposition managed to provide evidence that official data on voter turnout at the polls was questionable. However, the authorities will ignore these appeals, because oppositional political and social forces have no effective tools to protect their interests. Meanwhile, the short-term mobilization effect from the campaign curtailed.
Following elections on September 23rd, a number of human rights and public opposition groups presented their results of the parliamentary elections monitoring and appealed to the authorities with a demand to annul the election results in some constituencies.
Evidence of the artificially increased voter turnout at some polls provided by the opposition is quite convincing. In particular, several opposition parties and movements have managed to organize monitoring at all polls in the Frunzenski district of Minsk № 101 during the early and primary voting and recorded 35.69% turnout against official 58.8%. As a result, they have filed a request to the Central Election Commission to annul and void the election results in this constituency.
Generally, the official data on the voter turnout in the country significantly differed from the results of independent monitoring. For instance, Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign had 295 observers at 150 polling stations all over Belarus and came to the conclusion that the real turnout was at odds with the official data (74.6%) on average by 18.8% and therefore was within the 50% threshold needed to recognize the elections. However, in a number of urban constituencies the turnout was less than 50%, first of all in Minsk, where the official turnout was 59.2%.
Despite these differences, it is extremely difficult to say accurately what was the real voter turnout and to challenge the probable fraud or even the more so, to hold another elections. First, the opposition does not have the necessary human resources, and - most importantly – it is not opposition’s goal. On September 25th, 7 opposition groups - the United Civic Party, the youth organization “Young Front”, organizing committee of the “Belarusian Christian Democracy” (BCD) party, “Belarusian ruh”, Independent Trade Union in electronic industry, Rada of the Belarusian intelligentsia and “European Belarus” civil campaign – initiated an information campaign about violations during the elections. It means they have accepted the official elections results.
Second, after the election campaign opposition’s information resources returned back to meager state, mostly limited to Internet, as well as foreign, primarily Western media. In these circumstances the mobilization effect from the election campaign, which was extremely inert anyway, disappeared very quickly. Third, as we have already noted, the opposition did not set a goal to win seats in the Parliament and treated this campaign either as an information platform to communicate with the population or as a preparation for the 2015 Presidential campaign.
Finally, we have to face the truth, that today the opposition’s ability to counteract the authorities is very small. This applies not only to the ‘conventional’ opposition, but also for example, to the Liberal Democratic Party, which had 71 candidates registered however haven’t won any seats, even in the non-alternative Gomel-Navabelitski district.
Official statistics says, in the Gomel-Navabelitski district the only candidate Mel’nikov (from LDPB Party) failed to gather the required number of votes. Second round of elections will be held there in 2014. Meanwhile, official data says, the turnout in this district was 50%. It was an obvious insult to the LDPB party and they have not made any visible attempts to challenge this situation in court. This means that Belarusian political actors find themselves in very rigid frameworks and lack tools/resources to counter the authorities.
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.