Belarusian authorities aspire to boost voters expectations from cooperation with China
The Belarusian state media have launched a media campaign to promote Sino-Belarusian cooperation in order to demonstrate prospects for prosperity growth amid dwindling state resources to buy the loyalty of the electorate. The authorities aim to drag people’s attention away from criticism voiced by the opposition about the authorities’ failure to find a way out of the protracted recession. In addition, the Belarusian leadership aspires to strengthen its international position and consolidate its media image of the guarantor of regional stability and security.
In late September 2016, President Lukashenka will make a state visit to China.
The Belarusian authorities are unlikely to count on a breakthrough in Sino-Belarusian economic cooperation and on a major loan for the Belarusian economy. That said, the major ‘arrival’ of China in Belarus was announced back in 2006. Independent analysts say that until now Sino-Belarusian economic and investment cooperation demonstrated modest and rather controversial results.
In all likelihood, the state media aims to distract the population from the lingering economic crisis and falling living standards in the midst of the parliamentary campaign. Broad information campaign about the prospect of large Chinese investments and loans may help to reduce people’s interest in resonant election campaigns of opposition candidates.
Events in Ukraine no longer have a huge impact on public sentiment in Belarus and the authorities have exhausted their potential of peacekeeping efforts to keep their popular ratings high. In addition, in the absence of positive results in the economy, the Belarusian government anticipates to increase trust in public institutions by making high-level contacts with the Chinese leadership.
By strengthening Sino-Belarusian military and bilateral cooperation, Minsk aspires to support its image as a guarantor of regional stability and security and as a platform for international cooperation. That said, some analysts say that the threat of military-political pressure on Belarus from the Kremlin has increased amid devalued peacemaking efforts of Minsk in the Ukrainian crisis.
The fuss in the state-run media about Lukashenka’s official visit to Beijing also has drawn away people’s attention from the visit to China of Svetlana Alexievich, this year’s Nobel laureate.
The Belarusian authorities aim to create a domestic political resonance regarding the prospects for Sino-Belarusian cooperation in order to distract voters from economic difficulties during the parliamentary election campaign.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.