Friday 24 March 2017 | 22:53

Andrei Kazakevich: Belarus after election is in the grip of economy crisis and Moscow foreign policy

21.10.2015  |  Politics   |  Piotr Kuchta,  EuroBelarus
Andrei Kazakevich: Belarus after election is in the grip of economy crisis and Moscow foreign policy

The head of the Institute for Policy Studies Palіtychnaya Sphera (Political Sphere) talks about the main challenges Belarusan authorities face after the predictable president election on October 11.

The 5th International Congress of Belarusian Studies took part in Kaunas on the eve of the president election the results of which haven’t even been discussed during the Congress in the Vytautas Magnus University. “EuroBelarus” Information Service asked Andrei Kazakevich, the director of the Institute for Policy Studies Palіtychnaya Sphera (Political Sphere), what would be the first problem that the Belarusan authorities will face immediately after the so-called “election”.

The main problem for the authorities now are external challenges related to the economy since it is in a really bad state, much worse than back in 2011 when our devaluation shock happened. But now regional crisis in general is at the agenda: the crisis in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and other countries Belarus is economically tied with. Belarus can only limitedly influence this crisis, which complicates the situation even more. And it is unclear how long this crisis’s going to last. And, of course, worsening in economy will be prolonged, which will have serious consequences for the Belarusan authorities”, - marks Andrei Kazakevich.

According to the researcher, the other challenge is, “clearly, geopolitics”:

“Russia, the main Belarus’ foreign political partner, now has extremely bad relations with the West, has unpredictable and aggressive foreign policy; all that only increases Belarus’ risks of being drawn into the “Russia-West” confrontation and into some foreign political games of Moscow. At a certain stage Kremlin would like to interfere into Belarus’ domestic politics, which will become a serious challenge since Belarus’ political dependence on Russia has been and remains quite high. I don’t expect that it will be growing since now serious attempts are made and all the different means are used in order to balance Belarus-Russia relations in order to develop relations with the West and get as many pivots at the international arena as possible. To a great degree thaw in Belarus-Europe relations has been conditioned by the pressure from the East. Mutual interests of the West and Belarus have met here: the West wants to have a neutral country, while Belarusan authorities want to find an acceptable balance in the foreign politics. Combination of these interests is now ruling the process of Minsk-Brussels dialog”.

Andrei Kazakevich doesn’t think that the EU will completely shut its eyes on the Belarus’ domestic policy; “rather the key points will be changed”. “They have already been changed: certain moments are becoming less sharp. But I still don’t think that Europe will accept Belarus as it is or that Belarus will fasten to make everything that the EU suggests. Most likely, the search for balance in a new geopolitical situation will continue. And right now this balance is being sought out by the both sides. Of course, Belarus will have to make certain concussions. It has already made some by releasing the political prisoners – it was a very important step, I think, and a difficult one for the Belarusan authorities. But Europe also makes its position milder in certain moments”, - the head of the Institute for Policy Studies Palіtychnaya Sphera (Political Sphere) said.

As to the Belarusan opposition, which was in bad form during the campaign, Andrei Kazakevich forecasts its further transformation into a group of dissidents:

Let me note that I still find their actions important – they show or position some alternative for the Belarusan society; whether we agree with their position or not it’s still important for any society. But as a real political alternative the opposition has started to disappear from the mid 2000s. And this election can’t seriously change the situation neither to the worse nor to the better. The crisis of the opposition is, indeed, a systemic and a very deep one. And it is typical for many post-Soviet countries, where 10-15 years ago opposition used to be much more active and much more influencing. I.e. we can’t say that this is only the fault of the Belarusan opposition – the regime exists for 20 years now – there is fatigue, absence of hope in the possibility of changes, permanent pressure of the authorities, etc. I think that Belarusan opposition will continue its path to transformation into some dissident group rather than a real political force”. 

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