Any analysis, predictions or assessments of the situation in Belarus, processes related to the 2015 elections and strategies of the opposition and the government must take the political impact of the revolution and the military conflict in Ukraine into account. The developments in the neighbouring country have already considerably affected Belarusian domestic politics, the government, the opposition, and the public. This will be acrucial factor during the 2015 presidential elections in Belarus. This article presents an analysis of the negative
and positive effects of Ukrainian events on the activities and strategies of key political actors.
Undoubtedly, the Belarusian authorities have enjoyed the maximum in terms of political dividends because of events in Ukraine. They actively exploit the topic of bloodshed in the neighbourhood for their own ideological and propaganda purposes; the topic will be central to Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s electoral campaign. The primary idea is to stress the correctness and effectiveness of the Belarusian model and its current focus on the struggle against
corruption, and on peace and stability to avoid bloody clashes. Lukashenka’s electoral rating
has already reached 45 per cent, according to IISEPS findings. (≪Электоральная стабильность на фоне роста доверия≫, 05.07.2014 НИСЕПИ, http://iiseps.org/analitica/585, 10.09.2014).
The propaganda will refer to the Ukrainian experience and emphasize the threat of a revolution for society as well as the opposition’s inability to ensure the country’s security. In its turn, the Belarusian regime will make every effort to suppress anything resembling
a protest during the elections. To do so, the security services will have to:
step up repressions and control;
maintain and strengthen divisions in the opposition;
neutralize radical political groups at the earliest stage possible.
The experience of 19 December 2010 will also influence the style of the 2015 elections.
The minimal liberalization of 2010 led to spontaneous mobilization and growing activism of the population, resulting in the Square protests on 19 December in Minsk.
To prevent such scenarios, the Belarusian authorities are going to refuse practices of even facade democratization during the electoral campaign. They will only register candidates who have neither moral authority nor the will for strong actions.
Therefore, the factor of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and the 2010 Belarusian Square will determine the strategy of the Belarusian government for the 2015 elections. In my view, the strategy will include intensification of repressions, pressure on the opposition and society, and minimization of space for the opposition.
In fact, the regime will face no obstacles in eliminating the opposition. The opposition has lost its key function of indirect legitimization of the political processes and the Belarusian government. Now, Ukraine plays this role. Maidan has given Lukashenka a significant ideological resource, turning him into a symbol of Belarusian stability.
The only reason to keep the opposition on stage is Lukashenka’s unwillingness to lose his ties with the West and his realization of Russia as a real threat. This is why the opposition is just a mechanism for building relations with the West. Its participation in elections is an element of that mechanism. However, even the West, especially the EU, prefers the stable authoritarian rule in Belarus to an unstable democracy.