The election campaign in Belarus has approached an important moment when the collection of signatures in favor of this or that presidential candidate is coming to an end. Eleven candidates say they have collected the necessary 100,000 signatures.
But to collect signatures does not mean to become an officially registered candidate for presidency. The election committee makes the final decision after it thoroughly checks all the documents. Opposition candidates- and these are all except the current president Alexander Lukashenko- think that the signatures they have collected will be checked with particular attention. One of the candidates, Andrei Sannikov, has collected 120,000 signatures- just in case. He says he has no illusions about the upcoming elections:
I have no doubt that the signatures we have submitted will be checked very thoroughly in order not to register some of us.
Secretary of the Belorussian election committee, Nikolai Lozovik, says that having extra signatures in store might be useful indeed:
It fifteen signatures collected in one area are found invalid, all the rest collected there will not be taken into account.
The opposition thinks that some candidates have been appointed especially for Mr. Lukashenko so that he could choose the one with whom he could face the presidential race. In this case, even the collection of signatures is not a remedy for fraud, says Yaroslav Romanchuk, also a candidate for presidency:
On the one hand, those who have collected 100, 000 signatures, may fail. Meanwhile, those who have failed to collect enough signatures may succeed because they know they will be added non-existing votes.
Even if these worries are justified, the opposition has evidently no chances to beat Lukashenko. His opponents have failed to agree on a single candidate. And even if they had done this, they still would be too weak to gain victory over Lukashenko, says Kirill Tanayev of the Effective Politics Foundation:
Opposition leaders in Belarus do not see eye to eye on major issues, and since all their attempts to unite regularly fail, it is hardly possible for them to face a tough election struggle.
There are two ways the events may unfold. The elections may be boycotted by the opposition, and the results of the elections may not be accepted by Moscow and the EU. Experts agree that in both cases it will be crucial whether international observers report any violations during campaign. If so, sanctions against Lukashenko will be justified. Otherwise, there won`t be any.