LDPB connections in Russia have no impact at home
Among Belarusian parties, the Liberal Democratic Party maintains the closest contacts with Russia about policy-relevant issues. However, the party’s influence in Belarus is minimal: vertical control system, established by Lukashenko, effectively neutralizes all party’s attempts to benefit from its external policy assets.
On November 5th, Liberal Democratic Party delegation, headed by Deputy Chairman Oleg Gaidukevich, took part in the VII Congress of the People’s Party of South Ossetia in Tskhinvali.
The LDPB traditionally maintained a close working relationship with the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and - at least at the rhetoric level – is in favor of closer cooperation between Belarus and Russia. In particular, LDPB Chairman Gaidukevich previously advocated for the need to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as for the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus. In South Ossetia LDPB concluded a cooperation agreement with the People’s Party of South Ossetia, as well as the Russian Liberal Democratic Party.
However, the level of bilateral cooperation between the LDPR and LDPB is not high. For example, according to the Party press service, during the visit on October 29 to Moscow, LDPB Chairman Sergey Gaidukevich and his Deputy Oleg Gaidukevich met only with Deputy Chairman of the LDPR Ovsyannikov, not with the Party’s Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky or other Russian politicians.
In turn, inside Belarus LDPB statements about the single currency, recognition of the Caucasian republics, and plans for the 2015 presidential election do not have any political effect. For example, the party was de facto barred from the last two election campaigns (parliamentary in 2008 and presidential in 2010), and in the 2012 parliamentary elections, LDPB candidate Mel’nikov had lost the race in the Navabelitski District of Gomel, even though there were no other candidates (according to official data, the majority voted against the only candidate, which was nonsense for the Belarusian elections).
In turn, the LDPB cannot counteract such arbitrariness of the Belarusian authorities. Moreover, the party’s influence is decreasing. In particular, in August Oleg Gaidukevich (son of party’s Chairman Sergei Gaidukevich) left his job as Chief of the Frunze district police department of Minsk and was appointed Deputy Chairman of LDPB. In March 2012, Gaidukevich’s Deputy Chairman Kotsarenko was arrested on corruption charges. Back then he chaired “Tekhnobank’s” Supervisory Board. He is under investigation until today. All these facts point to the weakening of the Gaidukevich’s family in the Belarusian elite.
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.