Belarusian authorities wish to improve their relations with OSCE

April 22, 2016 19:18

Deputy Foreign minister of Belarus Alena Kupchyna took part in an informal high-level OSCE meeting in Helsinki.

Commentary

Official Minsk intends to tone down the criticism of international observers on presidential elections in Belarus. Belarusian authorities also try to remove the topic of the electoral campaign from the agenda, focusing on the unstable situation in the region and their role in mitigating the conflict in the Ukraine instead. Most likely the authorities will not put pressure on their political opponents, at least at early stages of the campaign.

An informal meeting consisted of two parts: a ceremonial meeting and an informal high-level discussion on current OSCE-related issues. Besides, Deputy Foreign minister Alena Kupchyna held bilateral meetings with the director of OSCE/ODIHR Michael Link and Deputy Foreign ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, and Sweden.

It is worth mentioning that the official Minsk made numerous claims about the need to reform OSCE. Belarusian authorities usually voice such initiatives when OSCE criticizes their handling of elections in Belarus.

During his meeting with the acting head of OSCE the foreign minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic, Foreign minister of Belarus U. Makei formulated his vision of the possible transformation of OSCE, underlining a serious crisis of the organization in regards to the conflict in the Ukraine: “Today the main principle of OSCE activities is accusations according to the principle “I am right, you are not”. Our common goal is to stop these mutual accusations and to find common ground for OSCE activity”.

In her turn the head of the Central Election Committee Lidziya Yarmoshyna selected the same mode of behavior in regards to OSCE at the seminar dedicated to elections in Vienna. According to Yarmoshyna the main thesis of her speech at the seminar was the thesis that the international observers should not be used to pressure states. At the same time Belarusian authorities are ready to listen to criticism from the part of international observers underlining the desire to improve the human rights situation as well as election law in the country. However, this does not mean change of election practices.

According to press secretary of Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dzmitry Mironchyk the first round of Belarus-EU dialogue on human rights will take place on July 28th in Brussels. The attempt to start such a dialogue was made in 2009 before previous presidential elections. A single round of the discussion took place then.

Official Minsk intends to tone down the criticism of international observers of the presidential elections, increasingly accentuating the unstable situations in the region and the role of Belarus in mitigating the conflict in the Ukraine.

At the same time the authorities indeed softened their stance to their opponents which is most probably a consequence of a low activity of oppositional parties at the elections. Besides, the population seems to be disinterested in the elections as well.

At the same time, official Minsk intends to tone down significantly the criticism of international organizations on the issues of human rights and the transparency of presidential elections. 

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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.