Belarus: The United Civil [Civic] Party (UCPB, UCP), , including its structure (national and local), number of members, duties of members; whether the party issues membership cards, appearance and format of membership cards, including a sample; treatment of party members. [BLR105405.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

According to Forjournalists, an informative website for journalists, the United Civic Party of Belarus is a "liberal-conservative opposition party" (Forjournalists n.d.a). Sources report that it was created from the merger of the "United Democratic Party of Belarus and smaller Civic Party" (Silitski & Zaprudnik 2005, 237; European Forum 13 Oct. 2015; UCPB 10 Aug. 2011). According to the party's website, "[i]t has registered branches in all regions, Minsk and in 62 districts of Belarus" (ibid.). The same source states that UCPB is one of the officially registered parties created in 1995 (ibid.).

1.1. Coalition

According to European Forum, an organization founded in 1993 "by the social democratic parties and political foundations from EU countries," whose mandate is to promote democracy and solidarity in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe (European Forum n.d.), "[t]he [UCPB] Party [was] one of the two main members of the opposition coalition [-] The United Democratic Forces of Belarus [for the 2015 election]" (ibid. 13 Oct. 2015). Sources indicate that in 2015, the For Freedom Movement and the Belarusian Christian Democracy planned to consolidate their resources with the UCPB party to form the centre right opposition coalition in order to participate in the [2016] parliamentary campaign (Belarusinfocus 15 Dec. 2015; Belsat 2 Nov. 2015). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, Tatsiana Kulakevich, a PhD candidate in Political Science at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey who specializes in Eastern European Politics, Comparative Politics and International Relations, stated that "[r]ecently, the UCP, For Freedom Movement and Belarusian Christian Democracy have declared … their cooperation for the parliamentary election in 2016" (Kulakevich 21 Dec. 2015). Belsat, the first independent Belarusian TV station (Forjournalists n.d.b), indicates that the Belarusian People's Front is also seeking to join the new coalition (Belsat 2 Nov. 2015). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Leadership and Structure

UCPB's chairman is Anatoly Lebedko [Liabedzka, Lyabedzka] (UCPB 7 Aug. 2011; Belarusinfocus 15 Dec. 2015; Belsat 16 Oct. 2015). According to the party's website "[t]he highest governing bodies of the party are the Congress, the Political Council (15 people) and the National Committee (39 people)" (UCPB 10 Aug. 2011). The same website provides the following information on the board members and their positions:

  1. Anatoly Lebedko, the Chairman
  2. Stanislav Bogdanovich, Honorary Chairman
  3. Lev Margolin, Deputy-Chairman
  4. Antoina Kovaleva, Deputy Chairman
  5. Lyudmila Petina, Deputy Chairman
  6. Vasily Polyakov, Deputy Chairman, Gomel Regional Organization
  7. Alexander Dobrovolsky, head of the Expert Committee
  8. Yury Istomin, Grodno Regional Organization
  9. Gennadiy Ananiev, Vitebsk Regional Organization
  10. Vladimir Vuek, Brest Regional Organization
  11. Artem Agafonov, Minsk Regional Organization
  12. Anatoly Pavlov, Minsk city Organization
  13. Vladamir Shantsev, Mogilev Regional Organization
  14. Oksana Krischanovich, Chairperson of the UCP Executive Committee
  15. Yuri Lavrentiev, International Secretary.

(UCPB 6 Aug. 2011)

3. Members
3.1 Membership

An article written by Kulakevich and published in Belarus Digest, a project of Ostrogorski Center, a private, non-profit organization that "provides analysis and policy advocacy on … [Belarus'] transition to market economy and the rule of law" (Ostrogorski Center n.d.), indicates that "[i]t is hard to determine the real number or the number of active members" of the UCPB (Belarus Digest 16 June 2015). On its website, the UCPB indicates that, as of August 2011, there were between 3,609 and 4,000 members (UCPB 10 Aug. 2011). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, Kulakevich stated that "[a]s of June 2015, [there were] 3,668 members" in the party (Kulakevich 21 Dec. 2015). A table on "membership over time" that can be found on Belarus Digest indicates that there were 3,125 members of the UCBP in 2002 and 3,668 in 2015 (Belarus Digest 13 May 2015). However, an article written by Kulakevich cites the Chairman of the UCPB, Anatol Liabedzka, as stating that "[he] recognises that the number of active members of his party adds up to less than the reported total of 3,668 members" (Kulakevich 16 June 2015).

Kulakevich indicated that UCPB issues membership cards to its members (Kulakevich 21 Dec. 2015) and also that there is only one standard card for all members (Kulakevich 7 Jan. 2016). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. An example of the membership card is attached to this Response.

3.2 Duties of the Members

In regards to specific responsibilities assigned to local members, Kulakevich cited the UCP Charter as stating that "[the] District (city), regional (Minsk city) organizations determine the shape and nature of their activities themselves in accordance [with] the program objectives, the charter of the United Civil Party and decisions of the parent bodies of UCP" (Kulakevich 21 Dec. 2015).

Kulakevich further indicated that the party's delegations are sometimes assigned specific tasks such as "collecting signatures, distribution of leaflets, etc." and that "tasks are usually assigned to people who volunteer" to undertake them (ibid.). Further information on the duties of members could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Other Organisations Within the UCPB

According to European Forum, "UCP has a Women's organisation and a Youth Organisation" (European Forum 13 Oct. 2015). The party's website states that its youth organization, the "Young Democrats (YD)," aims to "actively engage its members in the political life of the state" (UCPB 14 Jan. 2014). The group reportedly unites more than 500 "young people" between the ages of 18 to 35 years and has established branches in "five out of six regions of Belarus including the city of Minsk" (ibid.). According to the contact section of their website, the YD Council consists of the following members: a Chairperson, Vice-chairperson, International Secretary, Secretary, PR Coordinator, Chairperson of Minsk city organization, Chairperson of Gomel regional organization, Chairperson of Grodno regional organization, and a Chairperson of Mogilev regional organizations (ibid.).

With regards to the women's organisation, sources indicate that in the late 1990s, individuals affiliated with the "League of Women-Electors" were also often members of the United Civil Party (Everyculture n.d.; Encyclopedia.com n.d.; United Nations. n.d.). Further information on women's organizations within the UCPB could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to Kulakevich, the party also has an "Organization of Entrepreneurs" (Kulakevich 21 Dec. 2015). Further information on entrepreneur organizations within the UCPB could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

5. Treatment

Kulakevich stated that, "[u]nlike other countries, Belarusian parties do not provide social opportunities, personal status or business contacts" for their members (Kulakevich 16 June 2015). According to an article published by Belarus Digest, "[n]ew members are hard to recruit due to the low visibility of the opposition, the persistent lack of electoral success, and the high risk of being associated with groups that oppose the incumbent regime. Intra-party conflicts sometimes lead to the outflow of existing members"(13 May 2015).

Belarus Digest further states that "[t]he government has used the tools of state coercion to demobilise, marginalise, or criminalise the opposition's activities" (16 June 2015). According to European Forum, in 2007 "the United Civic Party (UCP) and Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) [withdrew] 65 candidates from the election in protest over unfair electoral campaign conditions" (European Forum 13 Oct. 2015). Belsat notes that before the 2015 election, "Anatol Lyabedzka, the chairman of the United Civic Party, was meeting with ex-presidential candidates [when he] found a bugging device" (Belsat 16 Oct. 2015).

The European Forum indicates that Lyabedzka was "one of the oppositional leaders that was jailed as a result of the protests following the December 2010 parliamentary elections" (European Forum 13 Oct. 2015) [1]. Similarly, sources indicate that on 20 November 2015, the court of Central district of Minsk fined Liabedzka nine million Belarusian Ruble [approximately C$674] for "active participation in the unsanctioned protest in front of the KGB [Committee for State Security] building on October 29" (Viasna 2 Dec. 2015; Charter97 20 Nov. 2015).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, Kulakevich stated that the situation is still the same and remains the same for all opposition activists regardless of the party and that "if you are an active opposition leader (party or no party), you will experience coercion" (Kulakevich 21 Dec. 2015).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] Following the 2010 Elections, hundreds of Belarusians have been charged with public disorder offences and detained; seven presidential candidates were also charged, most of them receiving prison sentences (The Guardian 21 Dec. 2010; Index 19 Dec. 2012).

References

Belarus Digest. 13 May 2015. Volha Charnysh. "Political Opposition in Belarus: Movements Instead of Parties." [Accessed 21 Dec. 2015]

_____. 16 June 2015. Tatsiana Kilakevich. "Political Parties in Belarus - Do They Really Matter?" [Accessed 21 Dec. 2015]

_____. N.d. "About." [Accessed 8 Jan. 2015]

Belarusinfocus. 15 December 2015. "Belarusian Centre-Right Opposition Coalition Will Participate in Parliamentary Elections." [Accessed 21 Dec. 2015]

Belsat. 2 November 2015. "'Weddings' of Belarusian Opposition: Attempts to Unite." [Accessed 21 Dec. 2015]

_____. 16 October 2015. "Opposition Leaders Find KGB Bug at Meeting in Minsk Cafe." [Accessed 5 Jan. 2016]

Charter97. 20 November 2015. "Anatol Liabedzka: Judges in Belarus Act as 'Political Killers.'" [Accessed 5 Jan. 2016]

Encyclopedia.com. N.d. Ludomir Lozny. "Belarus." [Accessed 6 Jan. 2016]

European Forum. 13 October 2015. "Belarus." [Accessed 21 Dec. 2015]

_____. N.d. "General Information and History." [Accessed 8 Jan. 2016]

Everyculture. N.d. "Belarus." [Accessed 6 Jan. 2016]

For Journalists. N.d.a. "United Civil Party." [Accessed 21 Dec. 2015]

_____. N.d.b. "Belsat's 7th Anniversary: Yuliya Slutskaya talks about Belarus' Independent Media." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2016]

Index. 19 December 2012. "Nothing to Celebrate on Second Anniversary of Belarus Protests." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2016]

Kulakevich, Tatsiana. 7 January 2016. PhD Candidate in political science, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

_____. 21 December 2015. PhD Candidate, in political science Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Ostrogorski Center. N.d. "About." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2016]

Silitski, Vitali and Jan Zaprudnik. 2005. The A to Z of Belarus. Blue Ridge Summit, PA. USA, Rowman & Littlefield Publisher.

The Guardian. 21 December 2010. "Belarus Protests: More than 600 Charged and Opposition Leaders in Jail." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2016]

United Nations. N.d. United Nations Public Administration Network. "Women's Movement in Belarus - Formation, Development, Problems." [Accessed 6 Jan. 2016]

The United Civic Party of Belarus (UCPB). 14 January 2014. "Young Democrats." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2015]

_____. 10 August 2011. "United Civil Party (UCP)." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2015]

_____. 7 August 2011. "Chairman." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2015]

_____. 6 August 2011. "Political Council." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2015]

Viasna. 2 December 2015. "Human Rights Situation in Belarus: November 2015." [Accessed 5 Jan. 2016]

_____. 24 June 2002. "About Viasna." [Accessed 5 Jan. 2016]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Belarus Digest; Belarusian Association of Journalists; professor of politics and international relations at University of Kent, UK; University of New Jersey.

Internet sites, including: Eapyouth.eu; EU Observer; International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights; Political Handbook of the World 2015; University of Kent.

Attachment

United Civic Party of Belarus (UCPB). N.d. Sample of Membership Card. Sent to the Research Directorate by Tatsiana Kulakevich, PhD Candidate in political science at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 21 December 2015. Translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada.