Authorities probe Belarusians’ readiness to pay for country’s stability

April 22, 2016 19:01

At a meeting on employment and migration issues in Belarus, President Lukashenko supported the Internal Affairs Ministry’s idea to introduce a “tax on parasitism”.

It is worth noting that the Belarusian officials have repeatedly made controversial proposals that would pick citizens’ pockets, including the “tax on the officially unemployed”. Amid the crisis in Ukraine, the Belarusian leadership is probing Belarusians’ readiness to pay a hefty price for stability in their country. However, in most cases, the authorities have not fully implemented their initiatives aiming to increase the tax burden on the population by introducing taxes that do not cause an open outrage. On the one hand, some initiatives may be blocked by President Lukashenko, in case of serious perturbations and growth of protest activity. On the other hand, in the face of shrinking government revenues, the Belarusian authorities may implement some tax innovations, ones that will be less painful for the ratings.

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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.