Belarusian authorities have concerns about loyalty of law enforcement
The pension reform and decree No 3 have manifested the public administration’s dysfunction in Belarus, its inability to foresee the consequences of decisions taken. Unjustified legislative innovations threaten to destabilize the political situation in the country; they have already radicalised a significant part of the previously apolitical population and led to social protests, which could transform into political ones.
Amid growth in social tension and the crisis in Russo-Belarusian relations, the Belarusian authorities have concerns about the continued loyalty of the security forces. For instance, Lukashenka ordered to revise the length of service required for the labour pension by including military and equivalent service. It is worth recalling that the Belarusian security forces became victims of the pension reform, which excluded military or special service from the length of service when calculating labour pensions.
Unexpected mass protests against decree No 3 have pushed the frankly unfair pension reform to the background. The reform, where it concerned the length of service for labour pensions, has had a negative impact on practically all citizens, including the power block. So far, the population is mainly preoccupied protesting against decree No 3. However, the situation may change in the near future, when pensions would be awarded by the new rules. The predatory nature of the pension reform is fraught not merely with protests, but with social upheaval.
Potential protests against the pension reform would challenge the loyalty of the law enforcement, which also fallen a victim to arbitrary rule. Amid limited financial resources, the authorities are likely to seek support from the security forces, primarily, by preventing their living standard from deteriorating. Amid falling overall incomes and reducing social protection, the security forces would have to retain their relatively privileged status against the bulk of the population to remain loyal.
Amid deteriorating relations with Russia, massive and broad protests against decree No 3 make the loyalty of the power block particularly critical for preserving the existing political system. The economic situation in Belarus does not allow for the growth in the well-being of the power officials. However, the political leadership is likely to attempt to prevent its fall. In addition, it would eliminate the factors, which could cause justified and massive dissatisfaction in the power structures. That said, the authorities are likely to provide them additional benefits and privileges, which do not require additional budgetary expenditures, such as priority in university admission, allocating land for housing construction, improving access to quality health care, and the like.
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.