Alyaksandr Klaskowski: Who will come after Lukashenka?
All the serious democratic players inside and outside Belarus should sit at a single table and start to negotiate already today. While wasting its time, the opposition may be late for 'the decisive moment' and be no better off than before. And then Moscow will skim all the cream from the change of Belarus' authorities.
In the interview with UDF.BY, political analyst Alyaksandr Klaskowski analyzes processes inside the country and the ones happening in immigration.
- The signing of Vilnius Memorandum gave the hope for the consolidation of left-overs from the Belarusian opposition, which, as well as the regime, is to survive the hard 2013. However, the rejection of European Belarus and its leader Andrey Sannikaw to sign the memorandum that was described by him as "harmful and dangerous" has caused perplexity at minimum. What stands behind "the individual game" of Sannikaw? Syarhey Kalyakin has expressed his position very clearly: Vilnius Memorandum is of the anti-Russian nature.
- I will start from the end. Though Kalyakin's party [currently, the "Spravedlivy Mir" (Just World) Belarusian Party of the Left] made the very successful re-branding, it didn't get rid of the moles of communism completely. In "Spravedlivy Mir" they stand for independence, but at the same time they are afraid of offending the Kremlin.
That's why they try to sit on two chairs. But it is always a thankless task. Moscow will not consider them as relatives, and other Belarus' pro-opposition forces will look askance.
The main note of the memorandum is the concern over the independence of Belarus. It is incorrect to call the note anti-Russian. This is the normal patriotic position.
The threat that Russia will turn Belarus into its semi-colony is very real. Or does Mr. Kalayakin believe that after the USSR collapsed, Moscow has become goody-goody? Then, let he reread what Alyaksandr Lukashenka said about its imperial ambitions in times of indulging in confidences. He knows better than others how people of the Kremlin can twist arms.
As for the position of Sannikaw, his formal motivation not to sign the memorandum is absolutely unconvincing. According to him, they did not mention that the regime is totalitarian on the document. But it is not totalitarian. Any EHU graduate of political science tell you this. It is the typical rigid authoritarianism, but not more than that. Otherwise, I would not give you this interview.
Today the top of "European Belarus" is in immigration. And it looks like, it wants to take not the ordinary position in local hierarchy, and probably, in the whole opposition movement. Therefore, "European Belarus" is in no hurry to join the Vilnius initiative.
Another question is whether Sannikaw is mentally and physically ready to become the face and the leader of this civil campaign again.
- Does Vilnius Memorandum have the ability to become the unifying origin for the Belarusian opposition?
No, it doesn't, because it is a symbolic act. And we've already seen those who distanced themselves from it.
The symbolism of the matter is that this is a kind of an oath to the BNR Rada. Not in the sense that the Rada will develop strategies and divide financial resources to fight the regime. If to talk straightly, it is insurance against the idea of a government in exile. Those who initiated the memorandum feel the threat of a foreign center that will try to pull the blanket to its side. In practice, it means to cause to quarrel opponents inside the country and abroad even more.
- It looks like the constant disorder emigrated together with some part of the Belarusian opposition... What happens in the Belarusian immigration , in political immigration?
- Any political immigration is a split, especially if we talk about that of Belarus. Contradictions that we see between different forces and individuals in the country don't disappear after an emigration of some activists, but only aggravate abroad. There is no real politics at all (it is very few of it in Belarus, too), and everything is transferred to the virtual realm. There is the battle of images, stances, the struggle for influence and resources exacerbate, and the disorder becomes the double disorder.
But you cannot say that it's all hopeless. Sensible voices, initiatives are there. Vilnius Memorandum is a step in the right direction (though one shouldn't set high hopes on it). And the fact that not everyone joined the memorandum is also a positive result, this is a specific effect in the sense that it's becoming more clear who is who.
- The opposition movement reminds the movement of many vectors: the United Civic Party stands for primaries, Uladzimir Matskevich proposes to combine healthy forces of the Movement for Freedom, Tell the Truth and the National Platform headed by the triumvirate of Milinkevich, Nyaklyaew and Matskevich. A part of the opposition is ready to nominate its candidate for a presidential election, but has no mechanisms to do it. Does the Belarusian opposition prepare itself for the parade of candidates as it was at the 2010 presidential election?
- It is possible that at the next election (whenever it will took place: in 2015 or in 2013), we will see the same parade of candidates.
On the one hand, almost all the leaders speak publicly about the importance of consolidation, about the willingness to negotiate. But off-stage, without any diplomacy they often say frankly that theoretically it is correct, but how will we sit at the same table with those and those?
In short, the Belarusian opposition is not ready to step over ambitions and mutual dislikes, over blockages that it has piled up over the years of strife. At the very least, a significant part of it is not ready.
The explanation is simple - in the current situation there is no feeling that one can tight the fist and strike a decisive blow to the regime. Therefore, none of the leaders is not willing to sacrifice personal and corporate interests for a common cause. Because in the end one can pass over for the goal...
There is no feeling of a historical moment when one can sacrifice something to get everything.
- In general, actions of different opposition forces remind the year 2010 - the raging of democracy when everyone considers oneself worthier than others and tries to derail those who are less worthy. And recent sayings of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) about the protection of Belarusian language logically fit in with the theory of Valery Kostka on the formation of three centers for power struggle.
- Concerning the LDP, it is a try of re-branding in a new situation. Probably, the LDP members feel that the authorities will allow the reforming of the electoral system, will introduce elections by party lists. And therefore, they should improve their image, wash away the label of the pro-government party and demonstrate more of the pro-opposition character.
Today, the titular opposition has no desire to make a coalition. In this sense, there is more motion in this direction in the camp of the moderate opposition, where the movement of Milinkevich, the civil campaign of Nyaklyaew and the National Platform of Matskevich try to negotiate with each other. The Belarusian Popular Front is very close to them, though not everything proceed smoothly in its camp and some friction among players is possible, because everyone has its own interests and ambitions.
The more radical and confrontational wing of the opposition (it is not my classification, but of the Belarusian Analytical Center) is in the more dismantled state. For example, the boycott [of the 2012 parliamentary elections] has brought the United Civic Party and Belarusian Christian Democracy together. But in fact, they are very different forces by ideology, tactics and leaders' style. Therefore, options of a tight alliance are quite problematic here, too.
Today, we see the common picture for the Belarusian opposition - there is quite a high degree of fragmentation even inside the country. Plus, there are turbulent quirks in immigration that can increase confusion and vacillation.
- Psychiatrist Dmitry Schigelsky and other experts believe that the formation of the united opposition forces like that of Polish 'Solidarnosc' can be a way out of Belarus' deadlock, and the meeting in Vilnius could become the first step to the way out. Is it possible to do in the harsh reality of Belarus?
- Polish "Solidarity" relied on 10 million proletarians - the Belarusian titular opposition has no such influence on labor masses. It seems that there is no slogans, tactics, allowing to expand its influence. Leaders of a protest try to distance themselves from the political opposition, even when there are protest actions of workers at enterprises.
Theoretically, the option of Polish "Solidarity" would be a very good solution. But it acted in other historical conditions, had tremendous support from the West. The United States and other countries invested mad resources in the promotion and support of the "Solidarity". Besides, there was an informal cohort of leaders in Poland who had great moral authority. Belarus has problems with this...
Straight parallels are inappropriate here, though some common features present.
Polish Communists were knocked down by economic problems. The economic source of the Belarusian regime is dwindling, too. And in this respect, the next year has a big chance to become the most severe. Russia put pressure on Belarus by subsidies, in particular, by that of oil. The peak of payments on foreign debts falls on the following year.
One shouldn't expect that the sharp decline in living standards will immediately made people to pack streets. This theory did not work in 2011. So, the opposition strategists obviously need to think over a fan of options, and it depends on the development of the situation.
- If the presidential election to happen in 2013, the opposition, as always, will be left with nothing...
- I would not hurry up to bury the regime and forecast a collapse, which can (as one may predict now) lead to an early election and, supposedly, to a probable victory of the opposition in 2013.
The Belarusian regime has big experience of slipping out of economical and geopolitical pincers. Besides, there is such a phenomenon as the forbearance of Belarusian people. In this regard, the regime is really lucky - it can do everything and people don't really protest.
However, we remember how 100 thousand proletarians came out on Lenin Square [nowadays, Independence Square] in Minsk. In fact, the very fall of the Soviet Union shows that events can develop at lightning speed, and the system that seems to be very strong can crack instantly.
Being in this situation, the opposition may really be late and left with nothing in the end. All the serious democratic players inside and outside Belarus should sit at a single table and start to negotiate already today.