Administrative Reform Creates New Opportunities for Opposition

April 22, 2016 18:26

Chairman of the Central Election Commission Ms. Ermoshina said, that village Council of Deputies could be abolished in Belarus.

Administrative reforms will elevate the role of local authorities within the Belarusian power structure. Due to fewer candidates for the 2014 local elections, local elections will carry more weight. Consequently, the structural role of political forces that take part in these elections will also increase.

Administrative filed reform should be regarded as part of the reforms initiated in the Belarus’ state apparatus. The Central Election Commission’s main argument in favor of the abolition of the village Soviets is to save about 30% of the funds allocated for the local elections campaign.

So far, these proposals are under discussion, but the scale of reforms is essential, and has already been called “revolutionary”. In 2010, 1495 local Councils were formed in Belarus, of which 1288 – village Councils. 15 329 Deputies were elected to the village Councils. By scrapping these local authorities, the government hopes to save money allocated for the election campaign, as well as for maintenance of local governments in the period between elections.

In political terms, the administrative reform, if implemented, will have several effects. First, the competition for the seats in the Deputy Councils of higher level (regional, city and district) will increase. Second, the administrative weight of the remaining local Deputies is bound to increase due to the assumption of functions previously performed by village Deputies.

As a result, the government will be forced to tighten control over the electoral process, and in particular, making sure that political opponents do not win seats in the new Councils. In turn, the increased attention by the authorities to all the participants of the upcoming campaign will enable the opposition to become more active in the political arena starting early 2013. It is anticipated, that the campaign will be launched in December 2013.

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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.