Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

Democratic forces determined to go ahead with presidential primaries

The United Democratic Forces (UDF) is determined to go ahead with its decision to nominate a common presidential candidate through a series of primaries, despite the Belarusian Popular Front`s refusal to participate in them.

The coalition does not plan to seriously change its plans, Lew Marholin, head of the UDF`s group in charge of devising the procedure, told BelaPAN following a round-table conference held in Minsk on Wednesday.

"Only two issues have not yet been resolved," Mr. Marholin said.

Firstly, the working group has not yet decided how many people should cast their votes in the primaries for their results to be valid, he said.

Secondly, some question the working group`s earlier decision to hold another Congress of Democratic Forces as the second stage of the nomination procedure if none of the contenders gain more than 50 percent of the vote, Mr. Marholin said.

"Some of us doubt that the winners should be allowed to invite delegates to the congress in proportion to the results of the primaries," he said. "This would allegedly substitute the voters` decision for the will of the potential candidates."

The opposition coalition will pursue the chosen course of action irrespective of the Belarusian Popular Front`s further moves, Mr. Marholin said. However, the party is still welcome to participate in the primaries, he added.

"After all, what`s wrong with, let`s say, 100,000 people watching a contest between the leaders of the United Civic Party and the Belarusian Party of Communists, Anatol Lyabedzka and Syarhey Kalyakin, and deciding which one of them is better?" Mr. Marholin said.

The nomination procedure should offer every person an equal opportunity to become the opposition coalition`s candidate, Mr. Kalyakin told BelaPAN.

"We don`t know who will participate in the nomination procedure," Mr. Kalyakin said. "The most important thing is to involve the largest possible number of common people in the primaries and not limit them to members of opposition parties. If 100,000 people vote for this or that candidate, it doesn`t matter how many contenders we will have. This will be a choice by at least 1.5 percent of the electorate, which is more than the number of people behind any candidate who could be elected at a national-level congress or a party convention. The winner of the UPF`s nomination campaign will be the favorite among all the pro-democratic candidates. If the procedure is embraced by the broad public, I assure you, those who oppose it today will try to join us and get in the lead."

The primaries will focus on the nominees and not organizations, which will be able to influence the nomination procedure but not stop it, Viktar Ivashkevich, leader of the Minsk city organization of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), told BelaPAN.
"I believe that Lyavon Barshchewski [former BPF chairman], who has not been banned from running for president by his party, as well as his team may and can be involved in the nomination procedure," he said.

As Mr. Marholin said in an earlier interview with BelaPAN, potential nominees will be required to know both Belarusian and Russian, make a public statement explaining why Alyaksandr Lukashenka cannot be president and make a donation to a common campaign fund.

The registered contenders will be able to conduct their nomination campaigns between October 2009 and April 2010, Mr. Marholin said. The primaries will be held in large cities in April 2010, he said. Between five and seven hopefuls and about 100,000 voters will probably be involved in the primaries, Mr. Marholin said.

The next presidential election is to be held in Belarus in late 2010 or early 2011.