Developments in the social democratic party landscape in Belarus

Mon 4 Apr 2005

15 January congress - “split off BSDP NH” appoints Anatol Levkovich as party leader
26 February congress - BSDP NH re-elects Mikhail Statkevich as party leader
11 March - Alyaksandr Kazulin becomes member of “split off BSDP NH”
19 March - Unification congress “split off BSDP NH” and BSDH (without leader Stanislav Sushkevich)
22 March - Formal charges against Mikhail Statkevich over street protests after 2004 elections

The Belarusian Social Democratic Party “Narodnaya Hramada” (BSDP NH), which has a consultative status in the Socialist International, has gone through some major changes recently. Internal conflicts led to a split in the party. The vice-chairmen of the party - Vladimir Nistyuk, Vitaly Malashko and Yury Markovsky accused party leader Statkevich of acting in violation of the party's charter and holding separate talks on the creation of a united social democratic party. They went to the Ministry of Justice, which is part of the repressive regime, to get support for their act and they got this support. Mr. Nistyuk, was appointed by the Ministry of Justice as interim chairman of the “split off BSDP NH” which also claims to be the one and only rightful BSDP NH. On 15 January this BSDP NH appointed Anatol Levkovich as new leader of the party. The new six vice-chairmen are Nistyuk, Malashko, Markovski, Marina Azaryonok, Konstantin Moroz and Nikolaj Kanakh.

Mikhail Statkevich, considered the congress as a provocation against the party since it was approved by the authorities. According to Statkevich, who is supported by leaders of regional committees of the BSDP NH as well as international partners, this is a move of Lukashenka and his allies to undermine the social democratic movement and democracy in general. In reaction to the decision of the Belarusian Ministry of Justice on the party chairmanship, the IX Congress of the BSDP NH took place on February 26. The Congress has been carried out on demand of more than 70% of the regional committees.

The adopted resolution "On the European Political Course of the Party" says: "The main goal of the government's provocation is to change the pro-European course of the party and to prohibit from the presidential election participation a candidate, who is able to inspire and head mass actions of protest the regime is so afraid of". The Congress expressed its support to the actions of the party leadership directed at unification of all left-centric forces in Belarus into one social-democratic party. The Congress also elected Mikhail Statkevich as the party chairman (for-97, against-4) and as a candidate for the presidential election 2006. The following persons have been elected for the party leadership: Head of the Central Revision Commission: Mikola Kijko, First vice-chairman: Ales Arestovich, Vice-chairmen: Oksana Bernazkaya and Sergej Romanko. The new international secretary of the party is Olga Stuzhinskaya.

Meanwhile, the “split off BSDP NH” led by Anatol Levkovich claims to have unified with the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada (BSDH) on 19 March. However, one of the leaders of de BSDH, Stanislav Sushkevich, distances himself from this and says the unification process was held to create an imitated social democratic party. On 11 March, Alyaksandr Kazulin, a former rector of Belarusian State University, became a member of this party, which still calls itself BSDP NH. Kazulin, who took part in the unification congress, is reportedly the most likely candidate to become the leader of the party. Kazulin also leads the Will of the People movement and is expected to challenge President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 2006 presidential election. Kazulin's appearance aroused a wide range of reactions in opposition circles, from enthusiasm to suspicion. Mr. Kazulin actively seeks support of social democrats in Western Europe.

On 22 March a formal charge has been brought against BSDP NH party leader Mikhail Statkevich over last October’s street protests that were sparked by internationally criticized parliamentary elections and referendum. The criminal proceedings were instituted under the Criminal Code’s Article 342 that carries punishment for “the organization of group actions disturbing public peace or active participation in them.” If found guilty, Mr. Statkevich may be sentenced to up to three years in prison.
The police reportedly told Mr. Statkevich that the inquiry into the case is to be completed by April 21.Edited by Kirsten Meijer
project manager European Forum
kmeijer@pvda.nl
phone +31 20 5512 228