Not all opposition VIPs are "guests of honor"

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Anatol Lyabedzka personally collected signatures both for himself and his colleagues. Pavel Sevyarynets toured 7 constituencies where he acted as a member of nomination groups. Mikola Statkevich is a member of 20 nomination groups, but he has never gone door-to-door in any constituency. Ales Arystovich, a member of Statkevich’s nomination group, says the number of collected signatures depends on whether windows look west or east.

Most of VIPs in the pro-democracy opposition run for parliamentary mandates and also are members of nomination groups in support of their colleagues. The European Radio for Belarus explores if they are just “guests of honor” and of they walk personally to gather signatures from voters.

Anatol Lyabedzka, the leader of the United Civic Party and a co-chairman of the United Pro-Democracy Forces, says that he does not evade from his duties and spends more time, collecting signatures in support of his party colleagues.

“I have two constituencies. Secondly, I have a permanent working place where I work daily. Besides, I am a member of nomination groups. Physically, I will not be able to cover all of them. But I visited Ashmyany twice and also went to Maladzechna. Bagdankevich, Palevikova, Dabravolski are in Minsk. I collected signatures in their support. Nearly every evening I went out to meet people. I had hundreds if not thousands of such meetings”.

The politician also noted with honor that he proved to a successful “signature collector”.

He also shared his observations made when collecting signatures.

“I met totally pro-Lukashenka voters only once. I spent about 15 minutes for tough debates. Those are the people who talk the stereotypes of the Belarusian television and quote Lukashenka and are the fans of his club. Actually, I was surprised to meet such people only once. It was unexpected to me. There were also several dozens of cases when people would say they would never vote for Lukashenka. But when they learned it was me standing in front of them, I displayed interest in the eyes. People were very surprised to see me walking personally! Then we would talk and people agreed that I talk the right things”, Lyabedzka says.

Pavel Sevyarynets, another famous politician, also collects signatures.

“Of course, I am collecting. I have personally gathered 303. I am in Mahilyou now to have those signatures validated. Generally, I collected signatures in 7 constituencies”.

But he was surprised, too.

“I came across a very good reaction to the Belarusian language in the eastern regions. I was surprised. I would expect a better reaction in Minsk, but it turned out another way. In eastern regions, people showed an excellent reception of the Belarusian language. Almost one in three endorsees signed either because there was a Belarusian-language representative or because they liked the Belarusian language. I did not meet those who are adamant supporters of Lukashenka. There were people who refused to sign but without aggression”.

Mikola Statkevich, the coordinator of the European Coalition, also runs for a deputy mandate and is a member of almost 20 nomination groups of his supporters. But he has not knocked door-to-door to collect signatures not only for his colleagues but even for himself.

“I allowed my name to be included in the nomination groups mostly in the regions, suspecting that my group would not be registered because of my conviction and I would have an opportunity to go to the regions and help people there. But since I was told to submit documents for the registration of my nomination group, I have to deal with this rather hopeless case and to gather 1000 signatures in my support”, says Mikola Statkevich.

Ales Arystovich, a member of Statkevich’s nomination group, gathers around 18 signatures within 1.5-2 hours. He says many people are on vacations or remain very passive.

“Workers are passive. They don’t seem to care about anything. Professionals can have debates. Upon hearing the key word – opposition, people decide right away whether to sign or not”.