An agreement on cooperation between opposition hopefuls during the forthcoming presidential race may be signed at a meeting on August 24, Mikalay Statkevich, leader of the European Coalition, told BelaPAN.
The agreement was discussed during a meeting held on August 18 by Mr. Statkevich and representatives of other potential presidential candidates, namely, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, Yaraslaw Ramanchuk, Syarhey Kalyakin, Vital Rymashewski, Ryhor Kastusyow and Ales Mikhalevich.
The agreement would create a platform for pro-democratic forces to coordinate their activities during the presidential campaign, Mr. Statkevich said.
"No reasonable person or pro-democratic organization could refuse to sign the agreement,"Anatol Lyabedzka, chairman of the United Civic Party who participated in the meeting, told BelaPAN.
The agreement provides for cooperation in observing the election, delegating representatives to election commissions, pushing for improving electoral regulations and the way they are applied and staging street protests in the event of ballot-rigging.
"The August 24 meeting will show who is ready to be in one team," Mr. Lyabedzka said.
The opposition may expect to win the election only is all pro-democratic organizations that plan to participate in it sign the agreement, he said. However, it would be difficult to win if, instead, some opposition forces chose to cooperate with the government for the sake of some concessions, he said.
A refusal to sign the agreement would evidence a rift within the opposition camp, Mr. Lyabedzka said. "For the first time, the Belarusian opposition will be split ahead of presidential election," he said. "In such a case, we'll work to prevent the legitimization of the government, which isn't ready for a democratic election."
The August 18 meeting was held in the absence of Uladzimir Kolas, chairman of the Rada (Council) of the Belarusian Intelligentsia (RBI), which began consultations with opposition politicians in April 2009 to help the fractured opposition pick a single presidential candidate.
Mr. Kolas explained in an interview with BelaPAN that the RBI's goal was to unite all opposition forces around a single candidate and not merely persuade them to cooperate.
Mikalay Statkevich, Alyaksandr Yarashuk, Ryhor Kastusyow, Vital Rymashewski, Alyaksandr Kazulin, Syarhey Kalyakin, Uladzimir Nyaklyayew and Yaraslaw Ramanchuk gave consent to participating in the RBI-mediated process of selecting a single opposition candidate.
Alyaksandr Milinkevich and Ales Mikhalevich refused to be involved, while Andrey Sannikaw was undecided.
On August 4, the RBI shortened the list of potential candidates from eight to five names: Alyaksandr Kazulin, Syarhey Kalyakin, Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, Yaraslaw Ramanchuk and Andrey Sannikaw. A week later, Mr. Statkevich said that he and other opposition leaders had decided to drop the RBI as a mediator in the selection of a single candidate.