Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Belarusian Popular Front to take part in parliamentary elections

The Council of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) decided at a meeting on Saturday that the party would take part in the forthcoming House of Representatives elections.

In a statement issued as a result of the meeting, the Council (Soym) says that the veteran opposition party will, however, reserve the right to withdraw its candidates from the race if the countrys political prisoners are not released before the beginning of the early-voting stage or the partys representatives are denied access to local election commissions.

It also says that the possible election of opposition activists to the national legislature will not be enough to recognize its legitimacy "due to the absence" of democratic electoral mechanisms in the country.

"Now that a genuine electoral process and the fair counting of votes are de facto non-existent, the right to both participation in elections and their boycott cannot be exercised to its full extent", it says.

The party will nominate as many members as possible for registration as a candidate, according to the statement.

The BPF will use its candidates to promote its values and highlight concerns among the voters, including concern about "a threat that Belarus participation in the Eurasian Economic Community and the Collective Security Treaty Organization poses to its economic and political sovereignty".

Speaking at the Soym's meeting, BPF Chairman Alyaksey Yanukevich emphasized the need for opposition forces to unite during the coming campaign.

The elections will hardly help the opposition change the government, and it should rather concentrate efforts on strengthening its footing, he said.

Some opposition groups will boycott the campaign, while others will take part in it, he said. "What is important is to prevent the different views from splitting the opposition. It is necessary to ensure that all participation scenarios are oriented toward one goal".

Mr. Yanukevich expressed fears that the campaign would be tougher for the opposition than the previous ones. "A dialogue with the West has been suspended, with the regime not interested any longer in liberalizing electoral practices", he said.

Moreover, the politician said, efforts to secure the release of the political prisoners are higher on the Wests agenda than the oppositions participation in the elections. It means that the question as to whether the opposition will participate in the elections or boycott them is not of great importance to the authorities either, he added.