Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 106

The Belarusan Popular Front (BPF)’s May 30 conference has narrowly averted an internal split and a fight with the other opposition parties–a course of action advocated by the BPF’s emigre chairman, Zyanon Paznyak. Paznyak had openly embarked on that course last month when he virtually scuttled the joint opposition’s symbolic electoral campaign against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (see the Monitor, May 11-12, 20, 25; The Fortnight in Review, May 21). In a message he sent from abroad to the May 30 conference, Paznyak urged the Front to:

–Relieve the BPF’s second most senior leader, Yury Khadyka, of his duties.

–Endorse Paznyak’s disavowal of the opposition’s presidential campaign–a step that the BPF leadership had not supported when Paznyak took it last month.

–Decline to participate in hearings on the situation in Belarus, to be held in Bucharest, Romania by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe with the participation of regime and opposition representatives.

–Demand the resignation of the opposition’s Central Electoral Commission chairman, Viktar Hanchar, as a precondition to BPF participation in the joint opposition’s future electoral campaigns.

–Create a “public parliament,” appoint a new Central Electoral Commission, hold elections to a new parliament under the pre-Lukashenka constitution, and form a new shadow government–all of this on the authority of the BPF. The BPF’s would-be parliament and shadow government would, in this scenario, supplant the existing ones of the joint opposition.

–Revive the BPF’s earlier, fruitless campaign to offer the citizenship of the 1918 Belarusan National Republic to those willing to accept it. This program gained the support of a minority, led by the BPF’s Deputy Chairman Syarhey Papkou at the May 30 conference. Papkou, the head of Paznyak’s electoral campaign in last month’s balloting, became his main mouthpiece in accusing the other opposition groups of electoral fraud and collusion with Russia.

More responsible BPF figures at the conference– preeminently Khadyka, Acting Chairman Lyavon Barshcheuski and Board Secretary Vyachaslau Sivchyk– prevailed in deflecting most of Paznyak’s proposals. This group considers that Paznyak’s insistence on leading the BPF from abroad creates a dyarchy of power within the organization and impairs its functioning. Sivchyk spoke for them in urging the BPF to identify those responsible for turning the alternative presidential election from a promising success into a fiasco. This group seems prepared to distance itself from Paznyak’s line and to try replacing him with a collective leadership, one mandated to set the BPF’s policy (Belapan, May 30).