Member of United Civic Party skeptical about chairman’s proposal to hold presidential primaries

Although the proposal to hold primaries may be attractive at first sight, it has several fatal flaws, Mr. Balykin commented...

 

Holding presidential primaries would hardly allow opposition forces to achieve the results they promise, Syarhey Balykin, a prominent economist who is a member of the United Civic Party (UCP), told BelaPAN.

Сергей Балыкин. Фото TUT.by

Speaking during a conference of the Minsk regional organization of the UCP on Saturday, UCP Chairman Anatol Lyabedzka reiterated that the best way to nominate a single opposition presidential contender was through a series of primaries.

Participants at the conference elected Mikhail Vasilyew to chair the organization instead of Mr. Balykin, who had served as its acting chairperson since late February and refused to participate in the election in protest against the party’s strategy and Mr. Lyabedzka’s “authoritarian” leadership style.

Although the proposal to hold primaries may be attractive at first sight, it has several fatal flaws, Mr. Balykin commented.

Firstly, presidential primaries cannot be efficient because opposition forces do not have real influence on the Belarusian public and are very unpopular with voters, he said. An overwhelming majority of them would not participate in the primaries, and the campaign would once again be limited to the “opposition ghetto,” he said.

Secondly, the UCP does not have enough funds for political campaigns, including presidential primaries, Mr. Balykin said. The party’s offices in the provinces are closed because the party cannot afford to pay a paltry $30 a month to the landlords, he said. “If the UCP has very few provincial offices, where would people come to cast their votes in the primaries?” he said.

Finally, it is unclear how the votes would be counted and the winner of the primaries would be determined, Mr. Balykin said.

He stressed that it was impossible to “elect” the leader of the opposition forces. “You become the leader if you have the necessary influence and skills to win people over,” Mr. Balykin said. “Unfortunately, neither the UCP nor other opposition organization has potential leaders.” // BelaPAN