Authorities insist on permissive requirements for street rallies
The Belarusian authorities continue to insist on the permissive principle for holding opposition street rallies and apply pointed detentions and fines against activists in unauthorised protests. Currently, the opposition has two centres for coordinating street activity: Statkevich-led Belarusian National Committee, encouraging the population to march in the Minsk centre on May Day without an authorisation; and the organizing committee of Chernobyl Path 2017 and May Day rallies, including the right-wingers, Tell the Truth and independent trade unions, standing for an authorised and safe format.
Minsk authorities and the opposition have agreed on the Chernobyl Shliakh (Chernobyl Path) format.
Following negotiations between the opposition and the Minsk City authorities, the latter have agreed to authorise the Chernobyl Path to start at 6 pm on April 26th at the Academy of Sciences and allowed the participants to march towards the Bangalore Square, a traditional route for this annual rally. The authorities made an attempt to shift the start of the rally to 2 pm in order to reduce participation in the rally, but finally, the compromise had been achieved.
In addition, part of the opposition and independent trade unions have planned a series of "solidarity marches" with socio-economic slogans, which should start in Minsk and 30 Belarusian regions on May 1st. Meanwhile, the BNC, headed by Statkevich is calling upon the population to gather on the October Square in Minsk for an unauthorised May Day rally with social and political demands. Given the possible clampdown by the authorities, unauthorised protests are unlikely to be popular among the activists.
The authorities are unlikely to take the risk and authorise the ‘solidarity marches’, including in the capital, due to the fears of convergence of the political agenda and socio-economic demands and the opposition gaining in popularity among the population.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.