Regions ready to struggle for mandates
The campaign for local elections starts in the beginning of January. There is very little time left for preparation – only two months. And while deputies-appointees wear out the seat of their trousers, the UDF activists help people solve their problems.
Homiel regional coalition of the UDF has been holding a campaign for solving local social problems for almost half a year.
"We have raised a question of school meal compensations for parents who had lost jobs," told us the member of the UDF Political Council, Secretary of Homiel regional committee of the Belarusian Party of Communists Valer Rybchanka. "We have gathered signatures under the appeal to all the deputies of the regional council and we are waiting for a reply. A month for this is almost over, but we have received nothing so far."
According to Valer Rybchanka, for them the election campaign "started, no need to wait for the official launch". Future candidates our collecting signatures under the regional appeal to "deputies-appointees". In the appeal there is a special section where people can write down the problems unsolved by the appointees. The first part of the appeals was sent to the district council on 5 October, the second - on 21 October. But the deputies do not hurry to react, says the activist.
Mr. Rybchanka has no doubts as to who the electors will vote for. The acronym UDF, as well as the team of the local coalition, are known in the region. And the selected deputies have already disappointed people.
"People say they don’t need appointees. The greatest problem caused by this authority is that the role of local deputies was brought to nought. The majority of electors do not know their deputies. A number of districts do not have deputies at all and have not had any for already three years".
"It turns out that the work of deputies is done by local activists. People address not district councils but the UDF when they face problems. Now the regional coalition has plans to make these apology for the deputies account for their "work", said the activist.
The chairman of Bierascie regional organisation BSDP (Hramada) Ihar Maslouski informed that preparation of the party to the local elections was started the next day after the end of the previous campaign. Activists held actions against abolition of social benefits and put forward a number of proposals to local authorities on protection of social rights of citizens.
Within the framework of the regional coalition of the UDF in Bierascie the campaign "For Our Town" is taking place. Citizens are informed about the communal rights and ways to protect them. According to Ihar Maslouski, the result of the campaign is improved yards and children’s playgrounds, renovated blocs and new benches.
"We distribute our newsletters in which we show how certain problems were solved; we publish sample requests, complaints, and appeals. We have not received any negative responses. People phone, come, and get help".
Hrodna regional coalition of the United Civil Party planned the election campaign long time ago. Today a lot of work should be done for people to get to know a candidate, thinks the head of the regional organisation Jury Istomin.
"We hold a signature gathering campaign for 50-km zone of reduced visa regime with Lithuania," said the activist. "Today it is an urgent issue for Belarus, and it’s particularly important for people who live in our districts."
Now the local UDF organisation plans to activate this work. The next step, according to Mr. Istomin, will be distribution of information about the UCP and the draft reforms it proposes. Special attention will be laid to the programmes of the local development drawn up for the elections.
Citizens of Hrodna can get acquainted with the candidates before the election campaign starts. The future candidates from the UCP became coordinators of various party campaigns in their election districts.
"We have not measured their ratings yet, but I think that those positive things they do will influence the voters’ decisions," said Mr. Istomin.
This election campaign can become a record one regarding the number of entrepreneurs taking part in it. Activists of the movement "For Free Development of Entrepreneurship" are ready for the election race, asserts the leader of the movement, entrepreneur Viktar Harbachou from Barysau. According to him, "today the issue of the election is the main on the agenda of entrepreneurs".
"The more candidates take part, the higher is the probability for our colleagues to enter the local administration," says Viktar Harbachou. "They could then battle for our interests on the deputy level".
Now the activists make a close study of local problems of both entrepreneurs and the whole population.
"We start taking an interest in the most painful local problems. Soon they will be covered in the informational materials. We will distribute these materials and offer our solutions. But for this people must go and vote for us," said the leader of the entrepreneurial movement.
The incumbent deputies clearly stand low in the esteem of the population when people turn not to them but to entrepreneurs. The problem of underflooding in one of the districts of Barysau, says the activist, has been reported to a deputy and even to the President’ Administration for 10 years. But it remained unsolved. Now residents of this district ask local activists to help.
On the local level people will support those who will "solve their problems not in name, but in deed," believes the leader of entrepreneurs.
Members of Minsk city organisation of the BPF think about not only election campaigning but also how to avoid election falsification. The party activists plan to nominate at least 10 candidates for every district of the city.
"All these election districts should be provided with election commission members, and an independent observation must be carried out. This is enormous work," says Viktar Ivashkievich, head of the city organisation. However, the politician highlights that a decision was made at the meeting of the council of the party organisation to take part in the elections only if representatives of BPF candidates will be admitted to election commissions.
"Otherwise the party will spread printed materials saying that rigging of the elections is planned because reps of the candidates are not allowed to count votes," explained the head of the city organisation.
According to Mr. Ivashkievich, Minsk BPF organisation is preparing a special issue of its newspaper for the election campaign covering social and economic problems that emerged with the crisis. This socially-oriented special issue will be published monthly. It will be distributed mostly in those districts where the party candidates will run.