Belarusian president is unsupportive of moratorium on death penalty
President Lukashenka appears to be ready to discuss a moratorium on the death penalty, however without any obligations. Minsk is counting on further normalization of relations with Brussels without making significant concessions. A moratorium on the death penalty is unlikely to be introduced due to the president’s stance.
EU Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis stated that a moratorium on the death penalty would be a very good incentive for Belarus-EU relations and Belarus’ reputation in the world.
The issue of the death penalty repeatedly came up in Minsk-CoE negotiations in the past. However, despite the importance of this subject for European capitals, Belarusian leadership had never seriously regarded the moratorium as an option.
In addition, abolition of the death penalty is a very unpopular idea in the Belarusian society, according to the IISEPS polls. Moreover, people voted against the abolition on the national referendum in 1996. Such vox populi is a likely reflection of the state’s stance in this regard and the efforts of the state-run media.
That said, Lukashenka regards the death penalty issue as the president’s major privilege. For instance, the president has publicly advocated for the death penalty many times: "With regard to the death penalty, we had a referendum. Whether I want or not, regardless of my position, there was a referendum decision. For me, that is the law. And when they start nudging me: "The death penalty, the dictatorship", - I tell them, the Europeans: "Make a little u-turn across the Atlantic, there is a very good friend of yours. As soon as they abolish, we shall follow”. Why am I talking about this? Not because we’ll follow the States... I am just showing them that there should be no double standards in this matter”.
For Minsk, the mere discussion about a moratorium on the death penalty enables to outline further moves in settling Belarusian-European relations.
Regardless of the reasoning by European diplomats, the Belarusian leadership is confident of its measures to curb crime, including the death penalty. As the president said in the mid-1990s, he was able to end lawlessness and "road racketeers" by using non-traditional methods of eliminating criminals.
In addition, the president referred to double standards applied by the EU, "... the death penalty... and maybe, even more stringent laws exist in the People’s Republic of China and other neighbouring states and in the Arab countries. Where are they pumping oil from? Why aren’t you demanding from them? But that is where oil comes from!”
Minsk is unlikely to seek participation of Belarusian representatives in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. That would only create additional obligations without bringing substantial benefits, which the Belarusian leadership has already obtained avoiding unnecessary costs.
The Parliamentary Assembly could empower the Belarusian Parliament, which is not in the president’s interests. In case of a political crisis, the Parliament could become an alternative body of governance.
Overall, the death penalty is unlikely to be abolished with reference to will of the people, but is likely to be supported by parliamentarians.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.