The Belarusian authorities decriminalize business environment and further put financial pressure on the opposition
The Belarusian authorities are forced to improve the business environment, however, reserve the right to prosecute for disloyalty. Law enforcers further apply financial pressure on the opposition.
The Belarusian authorities appear to be more aware of the need to improve the business environment. In Rechytsa, charges against six businessmen were dropped in the courtroom the day the amendments to the Criminal Code took effect. Business unions, including some opposition members, such as MP Kanapatskaya, have long lobbied for Criminal Code amendments to decriminalize business activity. Meanwhile, the tax authorities have introduced amendments to the Tax Code to ensure the room for manoeuvre.
The Belarusian leadership has become more responsive to critical reports in new media. For instance, the president has demanded to investigate the situation with the death of livestock and attempted to mobilise agro managers by reminding them about the envisaged outcomes of the harvesting campaign and lashed out at the supervising authorities.
In addition, the authorities envisage changes in the administrative organization. Most likely, this will happen after the 2019 census and after the 2019/2020 election campaigns. The envisaged administrative reform is unlikely to be a walk in the park since the president is wary of any changes in the power system he built in the mid-90s. Moreover, according to the Belarusian authorities, rural voters make the main body of the incumbent president’s electorate.
That said, the need to change the administrative organization is long overdue and has the support of the financial and economic bloc and the electoral commission. By scrapping village executive committees and village councils, the authorities would significantly simplify the organization of the local elections, since the number of deputies in rural areas is inconsistent with the size of the rural population. In recent years, on-site election campaigners have been having difficulties with finding candidates for deputies. The economic authorities simply aim to reduce costs and public spending.
Law enforcers further apply financial pressure on the opposition before the elections. For example, the Minsk police department filed a suit against the organisers of Freedom Day celebrations in 2019, demanding to reimburse a total of BYN 8013 for their services.
Changes in the power system are likely to be introduced after the presidential elections.