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Political Parties

As of 2012 Belarus had 15 registered political parties, including Belarusian Agrarian Party (BAP); Belarusian Party The Green (BPG); Belarusian Social and Sports Party (BSSP); Belarusian Patriotic Party (BPP); Belarusian Popular Front (BNF); Conservative Christian Party-BNF; Social-Democratic Hramada Party (SDH); Belarusian Social-Democratic Party (Hramada); Social Democratic Party of Popular Accord (SDPPA); Communist Party of Belarus (CPB); Belarusian Party of the Left Just World (BPLJW); United Civic Party (UCP); Liberal Democratic Party (LDP); Republican Party (RP); Republican Party of Labor and Justice (RPPS). Several of these parties exist in name only. Other, unregistered parties are also active, such as the Belarusian Christian Democracy and Belarusian Party of Workers.

Authorities routinely harassed and impeded the activities of independent political parties and activists. There were several instances of violence against prominent members of the political opposition during the year. Some opposition parties lacked legal status, as authorities refused to register them, and the government routinely interfered with the right to organize, stand for election, seek votes, and publicize views. Approximately half a dozen largely inactive political parties loyal to the regime were allowed to operate freely, even though they appeared to be little more than fig leaves for a system that had de facto excluded party politics. Political parties continued to receive formal warnings for minor offenses under a law that allows authorities to suspend parties for six months after one warning and close them after two. The law also prohibits political parties from receiving support from abroad and requires all political groups and coalitions to register with the Ministry of Justice.

Stanislaw Shushkyevich observed at the beginning of 1993 that almost 60 percent of Belarusians did not support any political party, only 3.9 percent of the electorate backed the communist party, and only 3.8 percent favored the BPF. The influence of other parties was much lower.

The Communist Party of Belarus (CPB), part of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), claimed to rule the Belorussian SSR in the name of the proletariat for the entire duration of the republic's existence. For most of this period, it sought to control all aspects of government and society and to infuse political, economic, and social policies with the correct ideological content. By the late 1980s, however, the party watched as Mikhail S. Gorbachev attempted to withdraw the CPSU from day-to-day economic affairs.

After the CPB was banned in the wake of the August 1991 coup d'tat, Belarusian communists regrouped and renamed themselves the Party of Communists of Belarus (PCB), which became the umbrella organization for Belarus's communist parties and proRussian groups. The PCB was formally registered in December 1991. The Supreme Soviet lifted the ban on the CPB in February 1993.

The most active and visible of the opposition political groups in Belarus in the first half of the 1990s was the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), founded in October 1989 with Zyanon Paznyak as chairman. The BPF declared itself a movement open to any individual or party, including communists, provided that those who joined shared its basic goal of a fully independent and democratic Belarus. The BPF's critics, however, claimed that it was indeed a party, pointing out the movement's goal of seeking political power, having a "shadow cabinet," and being engaged in parliamentary politics.

The United Democratic Party of Belarus was founded in November 1990 and was the first political party in independent Belarus other than the communist party. Its membership is composed of technical intelligentsia, professionals, workers, and peasants. It seeks an independent Belarus, democracy, freedom of ethnic expression, and a market economy.

The Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly (Hramada) emerged in March 1991. Its members include workers, peasants, students, military personnel, and urban and rural intelligentsia. Its program advocates an independent Belarus, which does not rule out membership in the CIS, and a market economy with state regulation of certain sectors. The assembly cooperates with other parties and considers itself part of the worldwide social democratic movement.

The Belarusian Peasant Party, founded in February 1991, is headquartered in Minsk and has branches in most voblastsi. The party's goals include privatization of land, a free market, a democratic government, and support of Belarusian culture and humanism.

The Belarusian Christian Democratic Union, founded in June 1991, was a continuation of the Belarusian Christian-Democratic Party, which was disbanded by the Polish authorities in western Belarus in the 1930s. Its membership consists mainly of the intelligentsia, and it espouses Christian values, nonviolence, pluralism, private property, and peaceful relations among ethnic groups.

The "Belaya Rus'" Slavic Council was founded in June 1992 as a conservative Russophile group that defends Russian interests in all spheres of social life, vociferously objects to the status of Belarusian as the republic's sole official language, and demands equal status for the Russian language.

In 1995 other parties included the Belarusian Ecological Party, the National Democratic Party of Belarus, the Party of People's Accord, the All-Belarusian Party of Popular Unity and Accord, the Belarusian United Agrarian Democratic Party, the Belarusian Scientific Industrial Congress, the Belarusian Green Party, the Belarusian Humanitarian Party, the Belarusian Party of Labor, the Belarusian Party of Labor and Justice, the Belarusian Socialist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus, the Polish Democratic Union, and the Republican Party.

The the United Democratic Forces (UDF) covers a center to left grouping of parties, youth associations, and NGOs united by their common objective of removing Lukashenka from power; isolation they believe is an effective tactic. The UDF is no a monolithic bloc. It remains true that while the leaders of the opposition differ in resources, methods, and personality, they are still committed to a democratic future.

On 30 August 2007, seven political parties and organizations within the UDF coalition agreed upon procedures for nominating opposition candidates for the 2008 parliamentary elections. The Belarusian Popular Front (BNF), United Civic Party (UCP), Belarusian Party of Communists (BPC), Belarusian Social Democratic Party (BSDP), the Party of Labor, Nadzeya, and Viktor Gorbachev's NGO representing entrepreneurs all endorsed the decision. Vladimir Novosyad's Party of Prosperity and Freedom (PPF) was also expected to sign the agreement. In past parliamentary elections the opposition failed to quickly organize its campaign strategy. By moving forward relatively rapidly to build consensus on candidate selection, the UDF prevents the regime from accelerating the election schedule to preempt opposition candidate registration, in and of itself a complicated and time consuming procedure.

By 2009 there were at a minimum two political opposition camps. On 14 November 2009, the Belarusian Independence Bloc (BIB), former members of the United Democratic Forces (UDF), held its founding forum in Minsk. It includes a mix of registered (FF, Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), Right Alliance), unregistered (Malady Front, Young Belarus, Belarusian Christian Democracy (BCD) party, Party of Freedom and Progress) political parties, NGOs, and opposition youth groups. The three guiding principles were: Belarusian sovereignty, democracy, and EU integration. BIB's objective for Belarus is EU membership, but to achieve that it points out democracy must take root first, and to be sure that's possible Belarus's sovereignty must be protected. Thus BIB rejects the policy of isolating Belarus and supports a limited accommodation with the regime if it continues its European trajectory and movement away from a Union State with Russia.

Both BIB and UDF support market reforms; and both BIB and UDF blur the lines in their coalitions between political parties, youth associations, NGOs, and independent newspapers. An example was Paval Mazheika, a senior executive of the Polish-based TV channel Belsat and former Milinkevich's Presidential press secretary, playing the role as moderator for BIB's Forum.

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Page last modified: 23-09-2012 19:55:03 ZULU