UDF Political Council Outlined Plans for the Future
24 January at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Minsk an enlarged meeting of the Political Council of the United Democratic Forces took place.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the Belarusian Popular Front Party, the Party "Fair World", the United Civil Party, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), the Belarusian Green Party, the public association "For Free Enterprise", "Union Chernobyl – Belarus", "Young Belarus", as well as the Rada of Belarusian intellectuals, independent trade unions, and organising committees for establishing the Belarusian Party of Women "Nadzeja" and the Belarusian Labour Party.
28 people representing all the regional organisations of the UDF of the 40 members of the Political Council participated in the meeting, which was sufficient to make legitimate decisions.
The first report was presented by the leader of "Fair World" Syarhey Kalyakin who spoke on the result of the coalition work in 2009. According to him, the work of the UDF in that period was based on the decisions taken by the last Congress of the Democratic Forces and was held in four main areas: the Social March campaign, the campaign "For free and fair elections”, protection of the politically repressed, and cooperation of regional coalition organisations.
In most areas, the work was successful and yielded positive results, said Syarhey Kalyakin. At the same time, the politician noted, the UDF failed to move forward in addressing one of the key challenges – establishing a dialogue with the ruling elites.
"No dictatorship ever enters into a dialogue with society, but prefers to use methods of military pressure and intimidation", said Syarhey Kalyakin. At the same time, he said, the opposition at times managed to hold a mediated dialogue achieving inclusion of their demands into international documents with recommendations for the Belarusian authorities.
The politician mentioned the position of the BPF and Movement "For Freedom", which, as he noted, did not actively participate in the coalition, but also did not secede from the UDF. The politician said that actions of those who tried to destroy the UDF as a real existing advisory platform of opposition forces were "irresponsible". At the same time, Syarhey Kalyakin stressed that work of the UDF should also be improved. In particular, he proposed to include to the Political Council representatives of those organisations that were already cooperating with the coalition.
The member of the BPF Sojm Vintsuk Vyachorka, who is responsible for international contacts of the coalition, stressed in his speech the importance of a unified position of democratic forces in relations with the European organisations.
"During the "honeymoon of liberalisation" UDF representatives met with numerous delegations – of the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the European Union, and with foreign diplomats. At those meetings we presented our coordinated position. We asked them to measure liberalisation not by words but by action, and warned that the liberalisation in words can have negative consequences: it can artificially strengthen the Belarusian authorities and facilitate conservation of the regime", said the politician.
According to Vyachorka, international political institutions saw the united opposition as an equal partner. By starting a policy of dialogue with the Belarusian authorities, the West simultaneously limited contacts with the opposition. To a great extent this was facilitated by the fact that the democratic forces themselves had stopped having single approach to domestic problems, the politician said.
According to Vintsuk Vyachorka, the dialogue of the Belarusian authorities with European institutions was a failure, which could soon lead to revision of the EU policy towards our country.
"Now a monitoring shows some disappointment in the liberalisation policy towards Belarus. Thus, European politicians start realizing that the Belarusian authorities have not fulfilled their obligations", said Vyachorka and added that the UDF should state it clear that they are an alternative to the current authorities.
The Chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) Anatol Lyaukovich informed members of the Political Council about the result of the parliamentary election campaign in 2008 and outlined his vision of the principles of UDF’s participation in local elections in 2010.
According to Lyaukovich, these principles have remained unchanged since 2008: it is necessary to try to win where there are strong democratic candidates, to present an alternative vision of what happens in the country to the voters, to collect information about violations during election campaigns and then evaluate them.
The politician criticized the idea of boycotting the local elections that some opposition organisations proposed.
"For the boycott there must be very strong resources and an electoral protest at which people would prepare themselves to the fact that elections are not free. The opposition does not have sufficient resources for implementing the goals of the boycott", said Lyaukovich.
The Chairman of the National Committee of the UDF Anatol Lyabedzka spoke about the work of the committee. In the reporting period, the work was carried out in three directions. The first direction was working out alternative documents on issues that concern the society. The most successful of such documents was, according to Lyabedzka, the Anti-Crisis platform which is already known to at least 10% of the Belarusians.
The second direction was training of anti-crisis agitators. To this aim, 15 workshops were held in different regions of the country.
The third direction was a series of events that were to become a discussion platform for the government, the opposition, and the international community. Among them the politician mentioned conferences on the Belarusian-Russian relations and on Belarus’ participation in the EU programme "Eastern Partnership".
The Political Council made a decision to include to the Bureau of the UDF representatives of the organizing committee for the creation of the Belarusian Party of Women "Nadzeja" and the public association "For Free Enterprise".
The question of including the unions "Young Belarus" and "Union Chernobyl – Belarus" into the coalition was not considered because there was no quorum (four-fifths of the members of the Political Council) necessary for such a decision. At the same time, the organisations were invited to continue interacting with the UDF, both subjects being a part of the All-Belarusian democratic movement.
The meeting of the Political Council was attended by many well-known Belarusian experts, politicians and public figures, as well as representatives of 8 embassies.