Elections in Belarus 2015

Serving two masters: ‘Communists’ feelings should be respected’ – potential candidate for president


Tatsiana Karatkevich, a potential candidate for president, visited the Belarusian city of Hrodna. She arrived in the company of political scientist Ihar Lyalkov, who is also a representative of coalition ‘People’s Referendum’.

The meeting began with the potential candidate’s brief introducing herself: Master of Psychology; married, with a son; she came into politics five years ago and now is going to become President. Then Tatsiana Karatkevich answered a number of questions.

When asked why she decided to run for presidency if the winner is known in advance, Tatsiana said that she cannot sit idle and must do everything she can. The next popular question was “What will be your victory if  the incumbent president gains the absolute majority on paper?” Karatkevich expressed confidence that in this case the victory is the people’s support; and it is up to the independent sociologists to name the actual figures.

“Aren’t you afraid?” the first question from the audience came.

“No, one should have feared before. In 2010,  when I was [presidential candidate] Nyaklyaeu’s agent, I got a fear shot,” Tatsiana smiles.

Most questions were related to the social and economic spheres – salaries, employment, pension reform, ‘shock therapy’. Karatkevich adhered to the position that was repeatedly voiced  by ‘People’s Referendum’: they are not planning any no sudden movements, but only gentle and peaceful changes.

Her behavior, manners and gestures are a great contast to those of Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, the previous candidate of ‘Tell the Truth’: maximum reserve, minimum gesticulation, polite response to all questions, avoiding sharp corners, frequent smiles.

Tatsiana was trying to escape all the sharp subjects. Asked about lustration she says that they need to engage in dialogue and not to offend anyone, but at the same time, in a ‘new Belarus’ there will be a fair trial, and everyone will be able to file a lawsuit against any citizen. When the issue of the official language was touched, the answer was similar: one should love and promote the native language, but bilingualism (Russian and Belarusian) should not be abandoned at the state level.

Karatkevich also commented on the possibility of de-communization of Belarus which is relevant again after the events in Ukraine:

“It is necessary to respect all the stages of the history, there is no need to tear some pages off it. After all, there are people who respect this (communism – Belsat.), they have their own feelings. And renaming streets is not such a cheap thing.”

At the end of the meeting Karatkevich was asked whether she would  agree to hold a polition  in a ministry or the presidential administration in exchange for withdrawal of her nomination.

 “I would agree because it fits into the concept of ​​‘People’s Referendum’ about peaceful change,” she said.

Several dozens of Hrodna residents attended the meeting. After the discussion Zmitser Bandarchuk, a coordinator of the initiative group in Hrodna region, urged the people to fill out applications and join the campaign. In 2010, Bondarchuk was the head of Nyaklyaeu’s campaign headquarters in Hrodna.