Top 5 most discussed topics on regional forums
Informal regional agenda includes real estate issues, urban infrastructure, wages, health care, judiciary and local cultural events. A common feature of the discussions is that they focus on dissatisfaction with the state, corruption, and the belief that the government’s performance can be improved by increasing state control, repressive measures against corrupt officials, staff changes, changing incentives, and in some cases by protests.
Many political discussions focus on corruption scandals. In Gomel the most topical is the ‘apartment case’: business director at a Gomel-based enterprise and acting Head of the Management, Construction and Housing Policy Department at Gomel Executive Committee are under corruption investigation. Vitebsk Prosecutor Dysko, while talking about curbing corruption, proposed to confiscate property from people who failed explaining the origin of funds for buying expensive homes and cars. Also, the prosecutor suggested to introduce mandatory property confiscation from convicted for corruption crimes.
Also, new real estate market issues are broadly discussed. In particular, the transfer of non-privatized housing into lease housing. Forums’ visitors suggest that the new rules will deteriorate the financial situation in many families. In addition, the government is tightening the rules for redevelopment and repair in private apartments, which also entails negative comments.
Strikes at various enterprises are also discussed. Preventive protests against the new rules in the Customs Union were held in Vitebsk (on June 6th) and Grodno (on June 16th). Informally, a possibility for a potential nationwide strike on July 1st was discussed. If held, such action could improve the population’s political activity.
Among unusual topics for discussion are: debates on the death penalty and closure of the History department at Grodno University (Grodno forum), discussions about state’s initiative to resume the wood production in forests contaminated by radiation (Gomel region), scandal with the local football club (Brest region) and a baby’s death in a state hospital due to medical error (Vitebsk region).
All in all, so far June was a rather peaceful and typical ‘sleepy’ summer month. The commenced holiday season reduces the degree of personal involvement in the public agenda. Most discussed, are issues of local or private concern. Most of the regional forum discussions focus on day-to-day issues and for the most part are far from politics, unlike national forums. Nevertheless, forum visitors’ general opinion of the authorities’ activities is critical.