The interview given in April by Anatol Lyawkovich, chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party "Hramada" (BSDP), to the newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya is not "an official party document", the BSDP board says in a statement adopted at its Tuesday meeting.
"The Social Democrats are consistent advocates of freedom of expression," the statement says. "We are convinced that each member of the party and every citizen have the right to freely express their own thoughts, including in public. This meets the most important principle of democracy - openness ad pluralism."
Members of the party are free to express their views in private and in public, Mr. Lyawkovich commented to BelaPAN.
On May 10, the BSDP Central Auditing Committee requested Mr. Lyawkovich to provide written explanations over that interview. The committee asked him to explain whether it represented his personal position or the position of the entire party. The committee made the request after considering a statement by BSDP members from Babruysk at a May 10 meeting.
In that interview with the largest government-controlled newspaper, Mr. Lyawkovich, a co-chairman of the United Pro-democratic Forces, said that the opposition should cooperate with the government instead of "putting spokes into its wheels" and likened efforts to unseat Alyaksandr Lukashenka to "fighting against the people."
Mr. Lyawkovich attacked pro-democratic forces for their "severe opposition" to Mr. Lukashenka, who he said was elected and backed by a majority of the Belarusian people. The politician said that the BSDP would "persistently look for common ground with the political leadership of the country for joint movement in a direction that will allow the party to become a full member of the systemic political process."
Describing Mr. Lukashenka as a "spontaneous social democrat", Mr. Lyawkovich noted that the party would seek cooperation with the government and support its "pragmatic line". "Those who are putting spokes into the wheels and trying to stop the accelerating train today will be trying to catch up with it and get into at least the last car tomorrow," the BSDP leader said.
The interview drew criticism from the three other co-chairmen of the United Pro-democratic Forces – Anatol Lyabedzka, Syarhey Kalyakin and Vintsuk Vyachorka.
A week after the interview was published, the board of the opposition coalition prohibited Mr. Lyawkovich from making statements on behalf of the coalition.