January 22 – January 28, 2024
The ruling elite

“X-factor”: a new competition for loyal deputies

The situation has not changed
“X-factor”: a new competition for loyal deputies
Фота : Аляксандр Кулеўскі

The government is currently shaping a fresh political landscape in the country, with the aim of establishing a model of collective governance featuring a well-developed party system. However, it’s important to note that the regime actively excludes Lukashenka’s opponents from the electoral process and conducts elections as if they were special operations, with security forces playing a significant role. Additionally, the government exercises manual control over the economy through stringent price controls and infusions into the public sector.

Leading up to the 2024 elections, the regime is orchestrating competitions among pro-government candidates.

In the parliament, the total number of candidates for a deputy seat has been reduced to an average of 2.7 people (298 nominees for 110 seats). To put this into perspective, in 2019, there were 703 applicants vying for the same 110 seats in the House of Representatives. This reduction can be attributed, in part, to the fact that members of democratic organizations were more actively involved in the electoral process back in 2019, contributing to the high demand for political positions.

Simultaneously, there’s a growing competition for the opportunity to join local councils. Organizers have significantly raised the stakes, with 1.52 people vying for each seat (18,996 candidates for 12,514 vacancies). This heightened demand is primarily focused on representation in village councils and organizations at a basic level. Over the past 20 years, the average competition during local elections was lower. For instance, in 2018, it stood at 1.25 people per seat (22,713 candidates for 18,111 vacancies).

It’s crucial to highlight that just before the elections, the authorities abolished nearly a third of the deputy seats in the councils. Previously, the norm was one candidate per district, with the exception of urban districts (regional or Minsk City Council).

The share of party nominees to local councils has significantly increased, reaching 23.6% for the first time. In the previous 2018 elections, this indicator was only 3.58%. Conversely, the percentage of party nominees to the parliament has decreased to 39.7% (183 out of 2024) from 51.5% (424 out of 2019), a shift easily explained by the liquidation of the democratic party last year.

The regime has completely excluded supporters of the democratic movement from the electoral process. Meanwhile, measures to depoliticize and demotivate opponents persist. For example, within a week, a wave of searches and detentions of former political prisoners and their relatives swept across the country. Simultaneously, the leadership of the Central Election Commission (CEC) boldly collaborates with and poses alongside representatives of law enforcement agencies.

The government successfully revived GDP growth through manual control, price regulation, and infusions into the public sector. However, economic growth has slowed in recent months.

The government displays little interest in enhancing the country’s investment attractiveness due to sanctions related to its involvement in the war against Ukraine. Consequently, creditors are facing challenges in receiving the money owed to them on Eurobonds.

To support state-owned companies and maintain the state’s share of the economy, the ruling class is reallocating resources.

The government is compensating Belarusbank for part of the interest on loans taken by state-owned entities such as the Orsha flax factory, Kamvol, and the Baranavichy Cotton Production Association.

On the eve of the Unified Voting Day, the regime is working to strengthen the loyalty of the public sector and beneficiaries of the state budget. The subsistence minimum budget will increase by almost 10% starting February 1, 2024. Alongside this, pre-election payments for children and pensions will also see an increase.

In summary, we can expect an increase in the share of systemic political parties, with the newly created “Belaya Rus” nomenclature party playing a leading role in the state’s representative bodies.

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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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