February 12 – February 18, 2024
Society and political parties

Critique of Tsikhanouskaya: Does it pose a threat to democratic unity?

The situation got worse
Critique of Tsikhanouskaya: Does it pose a threat to democratic unity?

Within the democratic movement, tensions are on the rise, with certain opposition figures making repeated attempts to challenge Tsikhanouskaya’s leadership. Despite facing a narrowing circle of supporters due to the harsh authoritarian response, Tsikhanouskaya’s coalition remains influential in shaping the agenda for the democratic movement. Some politicians, unable to assert their agenda on public platforms, choose to stay outside coalition projects like the Coordination Council or the United Transitional Cabinet, aiming to consolidate those critical of Tsikhanouskaya.

From time to time, specific politicians try to boost their influence within the democratic movement and attract dissatisfied activists away from Tsikhanouskaya’s coalition. The protesting audience, fatigued by the prolonged confrontation with Lukashenka’s regime and the lack of tangible results, sometimes points fingers at top politicians and mainstream political projects rather than the harsh authoritarian crackdown in the country.

Decisions by individual politicians to either refuse cooperation or engage within coalition projects often come with warnings about potential loss of support from their sympathizers, who are critics of Tsikhanouskaya. Consequently, participating in coalition projects like the Coordination Council, for figures such as Pazniak, Tsapkala, Balkunets, or Vusau, is unlikely to bring them additional support or elevate their ratings, given their narrative built on criticizing Tsikhanouskaya’s actions. Moreover, these politicians, with their uncompromising approaches, are unlikely to impose their agenda on a broad coalition of political and social organizations, which requires negotiations and compromise solutions.

While support for the democratic movement, not limited to Tsikhanouskaya’s coalition, is dwindling to the most staunch opponents of Lukashenka, activists are exploring alternative projects and paths for power transition in Belarus. However, Tsikhanouskaya’s opponents have even fewer means to influence the situation within the country, and on the international stage, they cannot match the achievements of Tsikhanouskaya’s office, the United Transitional Cabinet, or the Coordination Council.

Despite the shrinking circle of sympathizers, Tsikhanouskaya maintains a leadership position and sets the agenda for the democratic movement by consolidating a broad coalition of public and political organizations. Tsikhanouskaya’s team has successfully created sustainable coalition political projects, resolving tensions within the democratic forces through proto-institutes like the Coordination Council (2020) and the United Transitional Cabinet (2022). Although these platforms have faced and will likely face future crises, they demonstrate the ability to adapt and remain popular social and political platforms, both domestically and for international partners.

The unification of hardline politicians with different value orientations, such as Pazniak and Vusau with Tsapkala and Balkunets, is challenging and likely unsustainable, even if it occurs situationally.

It’s worth noting that Tsikhanouskaya’s broad coalition, along with her critics, almost entirely overlooked the election campaign for representative bodies of the regime. Democratic politicians focused on international affairs, sanctions policy, and repression. Election tactics ranged from ignoring/boycotting to voting against everyone, without a comprehensive propaganda campaign consistent with the internal Belarusian agenda. Meanwhile, Lukashenka’s regime mobilized beneficiaries of state support, like state employees, employees of state companies, students, and pensioners, to vote, creating a politicized atmosphere in society.

As a result, tensions among democratic organizations will likely intensify due to the ongoing struggle for increasingly scarce resources. This is driven, in part, by external restrictions on their activities (repressions) and the diminishing pro-democracy audience, along with a distancing from the internal Belarusian agenda.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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