With parliamentary elections in Belarus due to take place in September, Belarusian journalist, Katerina Barushka, stresses the importance of the elections and the reasons why the international community shouldn’t become indifferent to them. Why should the international community be interested in Belarus and its upcoming parliamentary elections which are due to take place on September 23rd 2012? After all, Belarus is a country which hasn’t amused the international audience with too many surprises recently. There have been no scandals and the parliamentary system is not that different from the representative institutions of other Eastern European countries. There are some quirky peculiarities, however. There is not a single fracture or party majority in the Belarusian parliament, and not a single politician is opposed to the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. By and large, the Belarusian parliament hasn’t been recognised by the international community since 1996, the year in which Lukashenko reorganised the post-Soviet parliamentary structure, the Supreme Council, into its current form. Instead of holding general elections, however, he simply appointed all the representatives of the lower chamber from amongst his most loyal associates in the Supreme Council. Simplicity and straightforwardness has always been the key to effective governing in Belarus.
So why should one be interested in the upcoming elections when there has been so little progress since then? Just as in previous elections, the last parliamentary elections in 2008 were characterised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights as ultimately falling short of commitments to democratic elections. And the regime surpassed itself during the last presidential elections in 2010: seven out of the nine independent candidates ended up in prison along with dozens of other prominent democratic activists. As a result, relations with the West have deteriorated significantly and they have never been this bad for such a long period of time.
On the other hand, improved relations with Russia suggest that the Belarusian regime will have the resources to conduct the elections in its old-fashioned way. Moscow, under Dmitry Medvedev, concerned with its international image, would once in a while call for more democracy in Minsk, at least on the surface. But with its newly-elected old president, Russia will most likely stand by Lukashenko in his righteous wish to protect Belarus from opposition hooligans and troublemakers. Thus, no democratic breakthroughs are expected.