The Belarusian opposition is preparing for a big conference called “New Belarus”, which is to be held on the anniversary of the beginning of the protests in Belarus – August 8-9 in Vilnius. Many hopes are pinned on it in opposition circles – all representatives of the democratic movement should gather at the conference and, at a minimum, designate a future strategy of action.
However, from the very beginning of the preparation of the event, it has been accompanied by scandals and a rather negative informational background – criticism of Office of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, which is the main organizer of the conference. What will be discussed at the main event of the Belarusian democratic forces and what is the chance that the opposition will be able to make important decisions without quarreling?
Announcement amid sharp criticism of Tikhanovskaya
The fact that the Congress of Belarusians (the event was originally called that) will be held on August 8-9, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya announced in mid-July, responding to sharp criticism that was leveled at her office at the II Forum of Democratic Forcesorganized by ex-HTP head Valery Tsepkalo. But the very idea of the congress, the head of the NAU Pavel Latushko with Tikhanovskaya discussed back in early July.
After the announcement, the office began preparations for the event and began sending out personal invitations to political activists, civil society representatives, experts and journalists (a DW correspondent also received an invitation. – Ed.). But this alignment did not suit everyone, because initially it was assumed that the delegates at the congress would vote for important decisions – and for this they must be democratically elected, and not just invited.
Along with Tsepkala, who continues to criticize Tikhanovskaya, although he accepted the invitation to the event, Pavel Latushko made remarks at this stage. He put forward his principles according to which the congress should be held: at least 1000 delegates must be elected, the agenda of the congress is determined by rating voting, and decisions are made by the majority. Among the topics to be discussed, Latushko singled out the creation of a national liberation movement and the formation of a national authority in Belarus (Tsikhanouskaya announced this on February 24, but there were no details. – Ed.).
What is proposed to be discussed at “New Belarus”?
As a result, on July 22, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya invited everyone to register for the event on her social networks. According to her, it is organized jointly with the Coordinating Council, the BYPOL initiative, NAU, civil initiatives, businessmen and experts. “We will talk openly with each other, show the results of our work, talk about real plans,” Tikhanovskaya said. It is curious that now the congress of oppositionists has become known as the “Conference New Belarus” – the office did not explain why the name was changed.
The organizing committee of the conference published the program of the event. On the first day, the participants are invited to discuss what the strategic priorities of the activity should be, what the transition period should be, how to save the country from the economic crisis and how to reorganize the democratic forces. And on the second day, oppositionists should discuss private business, digital politics and civil society. As you can see, the places to vote for a new strategy, for an alternative cabinet, or other important decisionsnot in the program.
However, the Belarusian public could not refrain from criticizing the program either. Some were outraged that only 5 minutes were allotted in the program for the presentation of the results of the democratic movement over two years (this was the case in the first version of the program, now it is 10 minutes. – Red.), as well as a large number of coffee breaks.
The main expectation is that the opposition does not quarrel
Assessing the prospects for the conference, Pavel Slyunkin, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), notes from the very beginning that the conference itself was forced: “There were calls to hold something similar before, but only after the Tsepkalo forum and media attack from all flanks, the office announced the conference “. And when asked what to expect from the event, he ironically notes that he does not expect anything, “except for another portion of news about disputes among the opposition.”
“There will be different structures and personalities at the conference, and based on what they are now saying publicly, their positions are very different. Some of the critics will be able to find a common language with the office, but most are too in different positions to settle them.” Therefore, as Slyunkin says, the main expectation from the conference is that demsils were able to calmly talkto find mutual understanding and a form of respectful communication with each other.
Shouldn’t we expect fateful decisions at the conference?
Director of the Institute “Political Sphere” Andrei Kazakevich, in turn, assesses the idea of the conference as a whole positively. “The minimum program for such a conference is the designation of the positions of various political forces. It is necessary that the arguments of these positions be given, the prospects for rapprochement be outlined and common approaches to be developed on how to respond to what is happening in the country and the region. You should not expect fateful decisions at the forum, but under a good set of circumstances, this may be the first step towards the consolidation of democratic forces,” Kazakevich said.
As an argument for the thesis that no important decisions will be made at the conference, both experts draw attention to the situation with the renaming of the event from congress to conference. In their opinion, this indicates that the format of the conference is a dialogue, because in order to make important decisions or vote, a democratic procedure for electing delegates is needed.
Discussing whether the creation of an alternative government body will be discussed at the conference, Kazakevich does not exclude that general framework agreements can be reached: “But no more. Personnel decisions will be premature, given that the designation of positions by different groups has not yet been completed. We hear there is a lot of criticism, but few concrete proposals to assess the potential of those forces that take a critical position towards the office.”