The Justice Ministry of Belarus has issued a warning to the opposition parties and public organizations involved in the alternative presidential election now underway. The ministry is empowered to grant and withdraw the legal registration of parties and nongovernmental groups (NGO). Under the law, three warnings within a twelve-month period are cause for withdrawing the registration, in effect banning a party or NGO.
The latest warning targets thirteen parties and groups: the Popular Front, the Social-Democrat Party and Social-Democratic Hramada [Society], the United Civic Party, the Peasant Party, the National Party, Helsinki Committee, the Leu Sapieha Foundation, the Belarusan Language Society, the Belarusan School Society, the Women’s Movement Adrazdziene [“Renaissance”], the Voters’ Club and the Free Trade Union.
The warning officially notifies these organizations that their actions in setting up an alternative Central Electoral Commission, designating presidential candidates and collecting votes for them constitute illegal actions and “flagrant violations of the constitution.” By some counts, this is the third official warning addressed to at least some of these organizations, which thus risk being banned (Belapan, May 11; Itar-Tass, May 12). The organizations pursue political democratization, economic reforms, national independence and the reversal of russification. Their involvement in the alternative presidential campaign might be used by the authorities as a pretext for getting rid of the opposition altogether.
FIVE YEARS OF CEASEFIRE IN KARABAKH CONFLICT.