Foreign Policy

Scenario 3: The gradual liberation

The political process in Belarus is driven by a willingness to be independent, civil society’s engagement, end of the resilience of Lukashenko’s regime.

The opposition relocates its main focus from street pressure to economic sabotage. The recovery of massive strikes in different economic industries, from essential state enterprises (such as potash fertilizer producer ‘Belaruskali’) to striking education and medical personnel, becomes the central force of the protest movement. The proposed constitutional reform would not address the existing demand for real power transition. The last pillar of power for Lukashenko would remain to be special forces. The opposition Coordination Board would manage the institutionalization of an existent protest, because it will manage to represent all social strata, contrary to the proposed National Assembly.

The economy, social and public health conditions would worsen due to the inability of the authorities to manage them locally. At the same time, the non-recognition of Lukashenko by most partners of Belarus (except the Russian Federation) would give more political leverage to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya internationally. The provided legal assistance to the protestors and positive international court decisions against AMAP functionaries and bureaucrats from the different levels of power vertical would gradually erode the current political regime. The moment when state forces could refuse to oppress the protest movement would determine the length of Lukashenko’s holding office. This decision would be managed, if the opposition leaders successfully negotiate the transition period with the European Union and provide the public with a coherent plan of the reform implementation in different spheres, and give guarantees to the power bloc that its agents are not going to be discriminated.

On the other hand, the inability to get such agreements with the Russian Federation by Alexander Lukashenko might be the key to the opposition’s success. The main sticking point to reach such agreements would be Lukashenko’s unwillingness to surrender state sovereignty and boost the integration process with Russian Federation. Putin’s discouragement in Lukashenko could force him to start a negotiating process with the opposition leaders, and Russia could even change its perspective towards the protest and blame Lukashenko for the existing crisis. During the summer, the new presidential and parliamentary elections could occur, resulting in a Tsikhanouskaya victory with a coalition government, that would be created from the political parties that are presented in the Coordination Board.

However, economic and social dependency on the Russian Federation restrains the new government to fully conduct the necessary and proposed liberal economic reforms of privatization, restructuring, monetary reform of the banking sector, and the proposed transition of the public healthcare to a private one. Moreover, the state’s economy is continuously shrinking due to the recent strikes of workers and the coronavirus pandemic. All these restrain the state from a successful transition period. The new agreements with the Russian Federation leave the state-dependent on Russian supplies. Moreover, the new government faces the impossibility to replace existing markets in the short run. The provided trade benefits from the EU do not cover the existing losses.

The substantial emphasis must be put on the media market reform, that was previously centralized in the hands of Lukashenko. The existing harassment and censorship of independent media would be replaced by the support for SMEs to participate in the business. The existing Ministry of Information would be dissolved, and the external players would be permitted to function in the market. The main challenge would be to ensure that the existing state media facilities would not be concentrated but diversified in the common interest.

Consequently, the Belarusian democracy faces problems of sustaining the transition process in the legal framework, renegotiating with the Russian Federation, and overcoming the threat of Russian troops in the country, which can be used against the protestors as a leverage of pressure on the new government. An inability to address all challenges that the new government would face is going to fail in the democratization process, which may, even more, frustrate the Belarussian society.

By Ihor Bobyr

I am a student of BA in International Relations and European Studies at Lazarski University. My main research interests are democratization on post-Soviet space, European Integration, ethical and religious conflicts, political conflicts, and historical traumas.

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