In September 2012, Belarusians will be asked to elect a new parliament. Opposition is still deciding whether to take part in the elections. They are not sure for a good reason – election fraud has become common practice in the country at all levels. Although Lukashenka recently announced that he would implement political reforms, no one is taking his words seriously. The regime opponents choose from two options – boycott or participation. Boycott would help to delegitimize the elections in the eyes of the international community while active participation could be used as a good opportunity to train activists and to deliver their message to the people.
In 2008, the opposition participated in elections. The government was eager to strike a deal with the West and even had hinted then that it would let some people with dissenting views into the parliament. But no dissidents were allowed, and the elections were hardly more free than any other election in Belarus in 2000s. The opposition felt deceived. Can Lukashenka’s opponents gain anything from the 2012 elections? Especially considering the marginal role of Belarusian parliament which does not even draft laws itself but acts as a rubber stamp institution.
Pessimism prevails among democratic activists. They believe that the regime will continue its “business as usual” – declining registration to candidates, impeding its opponents’ campaigning efforts, harass them and steal votes. The most important issue is control over votes counting and proper election observance which are non-existent.