Renaissance of Political Parties, Eurasian Currency, Palanez Rocket Launchers – State Press Digest

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Political parties see a renaissance during the ongoing parliamentary campaign, as 64% of all candidates are party affiliated. However, society still has only a vague understanding of the role parties play in the Belarusian political system.

The Polish vice speaker emphasises a need for closer cooperation between Belarus and Poland in order to maintain security at the EU border. The Belarusian army receives the newest Belarus-produced multiple rocket launch system, Palanez, capable of simultaneously striking up to eight targets at a distance of 50 to 200 kilometres.

Experts at the Eurasian Development Bank: Belarus would benefit the most from a single currency. This and more in the new edition of State Press Digest.

Parliamentary elections 2016

Political parties see revival in the parliamentary election campaign. The electoral commission registered 521 candidate for September parliamentary elections, reports Belarus Segodnia. They will compete for 110 seats in the House of Representatives. 93 were denied registration and 16 cancelled their applications.

Political parties saw a renaissance, with 64% of all candidates party affiliated, and 176 candidates representing oppositional political parties: United Civil Party, Belarusian Popular Front, Green Party, Belarusian Left Party, and Social Democrats. Candidates can now fund campaigns out of their own pocket and accept donations from individuals and companies.

Political parties will get more seats in the new parliament. Zviazda publishes an interview with political expert Piotra Piatroŭski on political parties' activity in the ongoing parliamentary campaign. This year the number of candidates running exceeds last year's by 136 people. This is due to changes in electoral law, which allowed political parties more opportunities to nominate candidates. Civil associations now also have the right to nominate candidates.

However, society still has only a vague understanding of the role of parties in the Belarusian political system. Parties suffer from personnel shortages and sometimes cannot even complete necessary documents. Piatroŭski accuses oppositional political parties supported by western governments of radicalism and inability to produce sound programmes. He predicts that the number of political parties in the new parliament will increase, yet not significantly.

Foreign policy

Poland deepens cooperation with Belarus. Vice-speaker of the Polish Parliament Ryszard Terlecki gave an interview to Belarus Segodnia.

Poland has decided to strengthen relations with Belarus under the auspices of the EU general policy of engagement. This became possible after the visit of Polish foreign minister to Minsk in March 2016.

As a country located at the EU’s eastern border, it is in Poland's interests to cooperate with the EU's neighbours in order to maintain security.

The EU is interested in Belarus’ participation in resolving the Ukraine crisis and the migration crisis, although the latter is less relevant to Eastern Europe.

Currently, Poland and other EU countries are acting as observers of Belarus's parliamentary election; they expect them to be transparent and fair.

Eurasian Union seeks partnership with Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. This June, for the first time, a high level delegation from Belarus participated in the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as an observer. Lukashenka then emphasised that cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union should become a priority for the SCO and a new continental partnership may emerge. Souyznoe Veche provides the thoughts of a number of Russian experts on the issue.

The Chinese project New Silk Road, which will go through Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus, will bring vast investments in the transport and construction sectors. However, while Russia seeks to replace damaged links with the EU and US with China, the latter shows no interest in helping and primarily focuses on the western agenda and its own interests.

Security, economy and society

Belarus arms itself with home-produced multiple rocket launchers Palanez. The Belarusian army has never boasted such modern and powerful weapons, writes Belarus Segodnia.

After 1,5 years of tests, it received the newest Belarus-produced multiple rocket launch system, capable of simultaneously striking up to eight targets at a distance of 50 to 200 kilometres. The six Palanez launchers are now in the hand of the 336th Asipovičy reactive artillery brigade.

According to First Deputy Minister of Defence Alieh Bielakonieŭ, the manufacture of the new weapons is an element of strategic deterrence. To develop its armed forces, a country can either increase their size or change their composition by strengthening them with unique weapons such as Palanez. Belarus chose the second option, which makes creation of local armed groups around Belarus’s borders impossible.

Belarus would benefit most from a single currency in the EEU. Experts at the Eurasian Development Bank announced that according to their estimates, Belarus would receive the greatest benefit in the Eurasian Economic Union if a single currency is introduced. In the long term, membership in the currency union could lead to additional GDP growth of 15% for Armenia, 30% for Belarus, and 10% for Kyrgyzstan, writes Souyz.

The political decision to establish a monetary union has not been taken, as integration is not obligatory for the countries without the necessary macroeconomic and structural conditions. Currently, the economies of the union are insufficiently integrated, with the exception of Belarus and Russia. Another constraint for the currency union is the high dollarisation of their economies as a result of high inflation. Preparing for transition to a single currency could take from 7 to 10 years if the countries abide by their commitments.

Belarusian youth discuss politics through BRSM projects. Andrej Beliakoŭ, head of the pro-government Belarusian Republican Youth Union, spoke on the recent activity of the organisation and modern youth for Znamia Yunosti. The Open Dialogue project started as a site where young people of varying political persuasions could present their ideas to decision makers through discussion and dialogue. Within two years it became immensely popular and is now seen as a form of upbringing for youth.

The organisation has also been developing volunteer movements and has implemented many patriotic projects. Contrary to popular belief, BRSM polls show that the majority of youth demonstrate an interest in politics. Beliakoŭ claims that young Belarusians are pragmatic and would rather work to achieve results than wait for benefits from others.

The State Press Digest is based on review of state-controlled publications in Belarus. Freedom of the press in Belarus remains restricted and state media convey primarily the point of view of the Belarusian authorities. This review attempts to give the English-speaking audience a better understanding of how Belarusian state media shape public opinion in the country.

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