Civil society, opposition and business show solidarity in fighting the coronavirus spread
By Zmicier Kuchlej
Civil society organizations, political organizations and political leaders have stepped up their online presence, including promoting online petitions, streaming videos, enhancing social media activity, and using crowdfunding platforms to raise funds for their events. Civil society, the business community, and the opposition appear to have a common agenda, that is, to mitigate the consequence of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Political organizations eagerly engage with youth social media activists and bloggers to fight the spread of the coronavirus. After canceling a concert in Minsk due to the coronavirus, the party organizers of Freedom Day celebrations on March 25th transferred funds for holding the online festival entitled “Decent Freedom Day”. As a result, social media activists raised enough funds, but the online celebration was compromised due to the blocked Internet access from the venue place.
Civil society organizations, political organizations, and activists further attempted to put pressure on the Belarusian leadership to alter their response to the spread of coronavirus in Belarus. The business community lobbied bail-out measures in the government to assist the most affected economic sectors. The government has responded to their appeals and is considering assistance to SMEs, such as reduced rent, tax holidays, and interest-free loans. Civil society and political organizations attempted to mount pressure on the authorities through online petitions demanding to introduce quarantine measures in the country. For instance, a petition advocating for an introduction of quarantine in educational institutions was signed by more than 16,000 people; and a petition requesting to ban the May 9th parade in Minsk (V-Day) – by 6000 people within days. However, the authorities have not responded with systemic measures, for example, parents and students were allowed to make their own decisions about attending educational institutions.
That said, private businesses have been supportive of the state in the fight against the coronavirus. IT companies and some private businesses donated more than BYN 1 million to the Belarusian Health Ministry and other Belarusian projects fighting against the coronavirus. Some entrepreneurs are providing medical staff with free lunches at their own expense and through fundraising efforts.
The organizers of the primaries have launched online voting amid building tension within the coalition after the departure of Paval Sevyarynets from the race. Some regional political activists (the coalition in Grodno and BCD regional coordinators) have suspended their participation in the nomination of a single candidate from the coalition.