“The Movement For Freedom is holding the meetings of activists in the regions and in Minsk on the eve of the Reporting and Election Conference to be held on December 15. The main issue is, of course, nominating delegates to the Conference. However, among other things, we consider the issues of our organization’s strategy of activities, because it is the decisions on the strategy and on the manner of our participation in the election campaigns of the next two years that will be among the major issues at the Conference,” said MFF Chairman Yuri Hubarevich.
He added that the issue will also be considered of the new MFF programme, which includes 8 main sections on the social, political, and economic life of the country. “This is not just the economy, health, education, and self-government, but also the issues of national security, constitutional order, and transformation of the political system created by Aliaksandr Lukashenka,” explained Hubarevich.
Therefore, it’s important for the organization, said the MFF leader, that such meetings are actively attended by the MFF members.
“And we do witness such activity. More than 100 delegates are already planning to attend the Conference — they were nominated at similar meetings. The last of the meetings will be held next week in Mahiliou,” he said.
RR: The previous conference was held relatively recently. Therefore, is this conference an extraordinary one or not? And if it is extraordinary, what caused this?
Hubarevich: “According to our charter, the MFF has a right to hold a conference no more than once every six months, when there is such a need and we are able to gather the delegates. Previously, we had a practice to hold the Reporting and Election Conferences no more than once every 4 years. Now, however, we are able to hold them more frequently.”
The last Reporting and Election Conference was held in the autumn of 2016, he recalls, so it was more than 2 years ago.
“Since we have important political campaigns ahead, the MFF Council decided to include the issue of re-election of our governing bodies in the Conference agenda, as we need to update in a certain way our team that will perform the important and substantial tasks that the Conference will define for the MFF,” noted Hubarevich.
RR: Will you nominate your candidacy for the office of chairman?
Hubarevich: “Yes, I plan to be a candidate for the next term, too. The more so as the proposals that I submit for the consideration by the delegates are largely of my own authorship — this is my vision of how our organization should develop. So, I will ask for support from the delegates in order to be able to implement all the plans and programmes that we have set for the next years.”
RR: However, the previous conference was held relatively recently. A new conference suggests that the MFF has some internal disputes or misunderstandings. If so, what are they?
Hubarevich: “There are no disputes in the MFF. The question is how often should the Reporting and Election Conferences be held — it is an exclusive competence of the MFF Council, so if the Council takes such a decision, it will be implemented.”
“The fact is that the frequency of once every 4 years is exactly what has caused criticism at the latest Reporting and Election Conference. Some of the delegates spoke of the need for a two-year term. However, those delegates were a minority, so their proposal wasn’t passed. I think that in this respect, we should not limit the willingness of delegates to participate in the election of our governing bodies,” added the MFF head.
According to him, any election campaigns in the MFF are open, transparent, and democratic.
RR: You have mentioned the big electoral campaigns to happen in Belarus soon. The MFF is surely getting ready for them as part of the Centre Right Coalition. Do you intend to put forward your candidacy for the presidential and parliamentary elections?
Hubarevich: “Participation in the parliamentary elections is probably related more with the plans and desires of each individual activist. The MFF’s task is to support these aspirations and to help organize a high-quality campaign.”
“I would remind you that I participated in the previous parliamentary and local elections, and have extensive experience and recognition in my constituency. Therefore, I hope I am able to count on a substantial support of the voters next time, as well. As for the presidential campaign, we surely need a joint decision, as this is a serious responsibility,” said the politician.
We must realize, he added, “that if the MFF intends to nominate its own candidate in the primaries process to be organized by the Centre Right Coalition, these plans and decisions must be supported by both responsibility and work.”
“So, this issue was submitted for consideration of such representative body as the Conference,” stressed Hubarevich.
RR: It is known that the Centre Right Coalition is discussing the issue of primaries. When will the public be familiarized with the results of this discussion? When will the primaries start?
Hubarevich: “I think that the discussion process has identical stages within each of our organizations. I would remind you that as of today, candidates were publicly announced only by the Belarusian Christian Democracy (BCD) party. There is now a discussion of these candidates within the BCD itself. The United Civil Party has not yet announced their possible contender.”
“The MFF is also preparing for this issue by discussing it at the regional meetings and by the future decision at the Reporting and Election Conference. When we reach together some common point, which could be the start, then I think it’s quite possible that this start will occur early next year — in the winter or in the spring,” noted the MFF leader.
RR: And is the issue of a single contender from the entire opposition — as it was in 2006 — being discussed or has everyone given this up?
Hubarevich: “For us, this is one of the strategic objectives — to have such a broad coalition. And we have always declared the openness of the Centre Right Coalition to participation of other political structures. However, we are observing that a number of parties have already announced this year and the previous year that they want to take this path exclusively by themselves.”
“Perhaps, they hope they have the potential to collect 100 thousand signatures. Perhaps, they have some kind of ‘agreement’ with the authorities that in the case they don’t collect all the 100 thousand signatures, they would, nevertheless, participate in the scenario offered to them by the authorities. It’s difficult to say. As for us, we intend to act openly. And we are convinced that without a union, it is impossible to conduct a serious campaign that is independent of the authorities,” stressed the Belarusian politician.
He therefore urged all those who would like to join us in such a campaign, to appeal together with us exclusively to society, rather than waiting for some handouts from the authorities, and to join the united campaign for nomination of a single candidate.
RR: Aliaksandr Lukashenka appears on the TV screen almost every day. There’s an impression that he has already begun his populist propaganda election campaign. Doesn’t it suggest that the elections can be announced earlier than 2020?
Hubarevich: “Aliaksandr Lukashenka has never disappeared from the Belarusian TV, so it’s difficult to say when he has a start or a finish. However, unlike all the previous years and campaigns, his rating is critically low today. So none of his ‘incantations’ work anymore, especially juggling the old issues, like the alleged fight against corruption or return of the salaries (which he is probably promising the seventh time now) of Br500 [a bit more than €200]. People do see that it’s a dead-end economic policy, and that the country doesn’t have any plans or opportunities to develop seriously or even to stabilize the economy.”
“Even if there are such plans, they have nothing to do with the present government system, since it is not capable of reforming by itself. Therefore, it’s unlikely that TV appearances would help Lukashenka very much — especially amidst the possible public outrage over the inclusion of more than half a million Belarusians in another list of ‘parasites’ and attempts to take the last money out of their pockets,” added Hubarevich.
RR: Well, this seems like an opportune moment for the opposition to really compete for power. Will you use it?
Hubarevich: “Naturally, we will do everything possible so that changes in Belarus occur and other people rule Belarus — so that other people carry out reforms and lead our country out of the dead-end created by Lukashenka over more than 20 years.”
RR: But the geopolitical factor — pressure and threat on the part of Russia — is an obstacle here. It can be heard, even from the opposition or former opposition, that Aliaksandr Lukashenka is probably the only one who is able to weasel one’s way out of this situation and defend the country’s independence.
Hubarevich: “The idea that Lukashenka is the guarantor of independence looks like complete nonsense. Because, above all, his main goal is to guarantee his own stay in power. Sure, to run the country, this country must be formally independent. However, this goal — the endless stay in power — is something that does not coincide with the goals and expectations of the Belarusian society. Therefore, this situation must change.”
“Today, none of the machinery of the state or law enforcement agencies are able to reform themselves in no time, because they were aimed for decades at suppressing the dissent and have been brainwashed through ideology departments that Belarus is not an independent country at all, but some part of ‘the Russian World’. So, one cannot hope that the KGB or police agencies created by Lukashenka would defend the country’s independence at a critical moment. The only entity we can appeal to is the Belarusian society,” added the politician.
“However, the Belarusian society should have a breath of freedom, especially in the form of independent media and access to alternative opinion, which is being continually suppressed by Lukashenka. Neither parties nor NGOs are still able to work freely with people. Many aren’t allowed to be registered and many are simply limited in the opportunities to conduct certain activities. No need to mention the absence of freedom of the media, too — we are witnessing the attacks on the major media in recent years. All of this happens amidst the so-called ‘liberalization’. Thus, nothing changes in this respect,” thinks Hubarevich.
According to the MFF leader, “it is not Lukashenka who is the guarantor of independence, but only those people in Belarus who are aware of the value of independence.”