Belarusian authorities attempt to achieve the most benefits from the potential clemency of the political prisoners
The pardoning of Bondarenko and Sannikau would allow the opposition to take part in the parliamentary elections and would also legitimize the whole election campaign. The delay in releasing the two political prisoners is connected with President Lukashenko’s absence in Belarus and is most likely explained by his personal hostility.
On February 1, Bondarenko, an election agent to presidential candidate Sannikau in the 2010 elections, wrote an appeal for clemency.
The release of Bondarenko is very probable, as is the release of former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau, who earlier wrote an appeal. If this takes place, the oppositional forces will receive an additional stimulus against the boycott, and in favour of participating in the parliamentary campaign in September 2012.
The probability of Bondarenko and Sannikau’s release is strengthened by the lowering of the opposition’s demands. On January 31, the opposition forces signed a ‘Declaration for a Public Discussion’ in which they demand only the swift release of political prisoners, but not their additional rehabilitation (which is a demand of the international community).
The lowering of demands is of benefit to the authorities as it allows them to neutralize the political prisoners who have been released in the capacity of political opponents. Along with this, the likely release of Bondarenko and Sannikau will weaken the position of those in favour of an active boycott of the elections among the opposition and will lead to the majority of the opposition forces to take part in the election campaign in some form or other.
The country's leadership has instructed the local authorities to raise minimum wages at enterprises by the end of 2019 to BYN 1,000, which would lead to an increase in the average wage in the economy as a whole to BYN 1 500. The pace of wage growth in 2017 is insufficient to ensure payroll at BYN 1000 by late 2017 without manipulating statistical indicators. In order to fulfil the president’s order, the government would have to increase budgetary expenditures on wages in healthcare and education, enterprises – to carry out further layoffs and expand the practice of taking loans to pay wages and restrict investment in modernisation of fixed assets. In 2010, the artificial increase in wages led to a threefold devaluation in 2011, an increase in the average salary to BYN 1500 will not match the capabilities of the economy and would lead to yet another devaluation.