Opposition figures discuss idea of creating shadow cabinet

Opposition politicians, prominent civil society activists and public figures held a conference at the Johannes Rau International Educational Center in Minsk on June 17 to discuss the idea of creating an “alternative cabinet.”

The public cannot imagine what a democratic Belarus would look like, and the opposition will answer its questions by forming an alternative cabinet, said Paval Sevyarynets, co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy (BCD) party, which initiated the conference, BelaPAN reports.

Mr. Sevyarynets pointed to the shadow cabinet that was formed at the beginning of the 1990s by the Belarusian Popular Front and the "National Executive Committee" that existed in the late 1990s as early examples of alternative cabinets.

Attempts have also been made to establish a shadow government in exile, also without much success, Mr. Sevyarynets said.

Experts do not have connections with the "Belarusian elite" and cannot influence decision-making, he noted. “Our attempt to create a shadow cabinet is aimed at solving this problem,” he said.

The shadow cabinet project is not limited to the BCD party, Mr. Sevyarynets said, adding that it was designed to help opposition forces` common candidate in the forthcoming presidential election.

Even if no such candidate is selected, the shadow cabinet would work to ensure the democratization of the country, Mr. Sevyarynets said.

Attending the conference were Vital Rymashewski, co-chairman of the BCD party; political analyst Alyaksandr Klaskowski; Lyavon Barshchewski, a former chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front; Alyaksandr Yarashuk, leader of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions; Anatol Lyabedzka, chairman of the United Civic Party; Syarhey Kalyakin, leader of the “Spravedlivy Mir” (Just World) Belarusian Party of the Left; former presidential candidates Alyaksandr Kazulin; Mikalay Statkevich, leader of the unregistered Narodnaya Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party; Zmitser Dashkevich, leader of an opposition youth group called Malady Front; and other prominent opposition figures.

There is a lack of communication between politicians and civil society in Belarus at present, methodologist Uladzimir Matskevich told BelaPAN. “It is a very frequent occurrence that politically minded experts accept invitations to meet with politicians, but they are always dissatisfied with the level and content of the discussions,” Mr. Matskevich said. “There are no substantive discussions and useful results at such meetings. All this is substantively discussed at conferences and meetings that experts hold by themselves, where really important issues are raised. Personally, I don’t see politicians’ intention to engage in real affairs. Everything is just in word only.”

Cooperation and mutual support between civil society and politicians will be possible only after politicians really support a specific public affair, Mr. Matskevich said.

“Belarusian Christian Democracy is a rather creative organization,” he said. “They look for unorthodox approaches. Of course, none of the BCD leaders thinks that they will really form a government of the people whom they invited here today. This is merely an attempt to make people of different views and backgrounds pay attention to each other. Such attempts should probably be welcomed.”