Minsk is ready to make concessions if Western capitals consider compromise

September 19, 2016 10:04

President Lukashenka has demonstrated a commitment to concessions in relations with Western capitals by allowing two opposition representatives in the Parliament. Due to a serious shortage of funds, Minsk is likely to use all available resources to enhance its influence in Washington and to unlock access to international loans.

The USA would reconsider sanctions against Minsk if the situation with democracy and human rights improved, State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters.

The long-lasting negotiations over gas and oil issues with Russia imply that tension has built up in Russo-Belarusian relations and that the Kremlin has taken a hard line. Amid strengthened power component in the Kremlin’s foreign policy, the Belarusian authorities may wary about enhanced aggression from the Kremlin in relations with Minsk.

In addition, the authorities could have decided to allow Anna Konopatskaya from the UCP and Elena Anisim to win parliamentary seats in order to reduce influence of former presidential candidate Tatsiana Karatkevich from Tell the Truth campaign. Besides, the non-recognition of the Belarusian Parliamentary elections implies that President Lukashenka remained the only legitimate negotiator on the international arena.

Before the Parliamentary race started in Belarus, US Charge d'Affaires in Belarus Roland Scott made a statement about the possibility of mutual exchange of ambassadors, which was probably interpreted by the Belarusian authorities as a desire to remove tension in bilateral relations. Minsk regards Washington as the main obstacle in access to international loans.

Overall, Minsk is ready to make concessions on its terms.

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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.