ENNews 15.09.2014

Who will be the single candidate?

karacA second woman –Alena Anisim — has announced her presidential ambitions in Belarus. The first one was Olga Karach (already in the spring of 2013). 

An experienced public figure, Ms. Karach, has gone from being an activist of the youth organization “Zubr” and a school teacher to a local deputy and a director of an effective civil society organization “Nash Dom”, which helps citizens to solve social problems across the whole country. If one has an experienced team, it is not a problem to collect the 100.000 citizens’ signatures required for the registration of a presidential candidate.

Alena Anisim seems not to possess such a capital. The Belarusian Language Society (deputy chairman of which she is) seems to be a strong, mass organization (officially it has more than 6,000 members) but only on paper. Technically, without the help of other partners the task of collecting 100,000 signatures seems impossible.

According to the plans of Ms. Anisim a congress “For Independence” (which she initiated) will help to find partners. The support to her campaign has been already allegedly promised by the Council of the Belarusian Intelligentsia. However, some members of the Council (Valentin Golubev) have heard about such support for the first time from the media.

Both women are qualified philologists; however, their approach to the language issue is obviously different. Ms. Karach (a certified teacher of the Russian language) has already, to a certain extent, alienated the nationally-conscious people while talking about the “imperfection” of the Belarusian language as compared to Russian or Polish, adding that the main language in Belarus is Russian.

Eventually, the politician found a way out of the conflict, and even promised government support to the Belarusian language. However, the overall impression has not changed. Especially now, when the acting head of the state has tried to publicly speak Belarusian for the first time in many years.

Ms. Anisim’s position in an interview with “Nasha Niva” was more liberal. She sees the implementation of the real bilingualism in practice, rather than on paper, as an ideal situation.

On the one hand, the former youth activist Olga Karach produces the impression of a more prepared candidate. It is not the first time that she will participate in elections and fight the authorities. The asset of Ms. Anisim, however, is many years of experience on state television, where she has been presenting a TV show in the Belarusian language. Excellent public speaking and TV presenter skills are also without a doubt an acquired capital.

Alena Anisim unlike Olga Karach has not yet presented her economic program. At the same time, while Olga Karach hesitates about her final decision of whether to run or not, Alena Anisim confirms the consistency of her plans. She was also once a youth non-governmental activist, during the Soviet times, when the problems with the authorities could in fact destroy the life of a whole family.

Who are the candidates in the perception of voters?

For years, the authorities have pictured opposition as philologists and experts in the Belarusian language, who are not familiar with the government matters and, therefore, are not suitable for work even in local councils. According to this, the personality of Alena Anisim really seems like the embodiment of stereotypes about the opposition. She is a scholar of the Belarusian language, an employee of the Academy of Sciences and an activist of the Belarusian Language Society.

Olga Karach, however, has both a career of a deputy in a local council and leadership achievements on her CV. Being a leader of an independent civil society organization, which works across the whole country, is impossible in today’s Belarus without advanced managerial skills.

The energy of Olga Karach may prevail. Or, perhaps, voters will prefer an easier to understand Belarusian language teacher who loves her job.

It is too early to say which of them will actually come to be directly involved in the elections. But as of now – a year before the election – they are almost the only candidates which the Belarusian opposition can offer. Two women –both of them language teachers.