Authorities are attempting to redirect popular discontent on private sector

January 30, 2017 12:08

President Lukashenka and the KGB press service commented on the high-profile arrest of businessman and blogger Alexander Knyrovich. The authorities are attempting to shift the responsibility for people’s falling living standards and growing housing and utility costs on private businesses. In addition, amid dwindling public resources, security officials are attempting to strengthen their position by engaging in the fight against business groups for funds redistribution. Some independent observers have noted the political nature of the criminal prosecution of the businessman, who was known for unnecessary publicity, liberal views and criticism of the government's economic policy. Apparently, amid growing tension in society and discontent with the conservation of the economic model by some public officials and businessmen, the president is reviewing the informal agreement with major businessmen about non-interference in politics.

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Death penalty discussion in Belarus: yet not ready for either abolition or moratorium
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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.