The population is willing to vote but remains politically inactive
The election campaign is following the traditional path with a slight increase in pro-state public institutions’ activities. Regardless of the citizen’s high readiness to vote, the electoral political activity in the country is extremely low.
On August 13th finished the next stage of the election campaign: signatures collection in support of Deputy Candidates. The Candidates’ registration will be completed by August 23rd.
As of August 14, there were 494 applicants for the status of a candidate, including 21 current MPs.
Political parties proposed the largest number of candidates - 264, citizens put forward 223 candidates through the signature’s collection, 111 candidates were put forward from labor groups. Among political parties, the most active is the Liberal Democratic Party (93 nominees), the United Civil Party (48), the Belarusian Popular Front (33) and the Belarusian Left Party “Fair World” (32).
According to the CEC Head Mrs. Yarmoshyna, during the candidates’ registration their number will shrink significantly because the quality of submitted applications (documents, tax forms, signatures) is low. According to the CEC, in 2008, one-fourth of all applications had been rejected.
During this campaign youth organization Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM) is very active. The organization has already announced several national information campaigns, inter alia, “The Young Voter Day” and has set up a network of elections HQs in the regions.
Presumably, the purpose of these BRSM actions is to mobilize young people to participate in the election campaign. As noted earlier, two other organizations are responsible for the mobilization of the adult population – Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions and “Belaya Rus” quango.
IISEPS’ June poll said the proportion of citizens willing to vote is quite high - 50.7% respondent said ‘yes’. At the same time, 19.4% were not planning to vote, and 29.9% were undecided. At the same time, opposition parties and social movements note very low citizen’s activity they encountered during the signatures’ collection process.
Political apathy of the population is part of the state policy and the basis of the regime’s stability. Voting is considered a ritual obligation. It is anticipated that in September the authorities will start an active mobilization campaign using state media and quangos, which will increase the turnout at the polling stations.
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.