Belarusian authorities have not stopped protests by suspending decree on ‘social parasites’

March 13, 2017 9:28
Фото: Станислав Коршунов, TUT.BY

The Belarusian authorities have frozen the enforcement of the decree on ‘social parasites’ in order to divorce the opposition and social-economic demands of the population before conventional spring protests. Yet protests in the regions took place regardless of the president’s decision to suspend the operation of the decree. The Belarusian authorities are likely to step up repressions against street leaders and opposition activists if participation in protests increases and demands extend.

Decree No 3 "On Preventing Social Dependency" has not been rescinded; however, its enforcement has been suspended for one year.

The Belarusian authorities are starting to use force and pointed repression against the opposition in order to retain political apathy in society. Apparently, the decree on ‘social parasites’ also caused tension and discontent with the state's socio-economic policy among public officials. This has prompted the president to strengthen the power bloc and rely on the support of special services, rather than the state apparatus and ideologists.

The authorities are attempting to disorient the protest movement and divide the opposition into several camps by encouraging mutual claims and inter-party conflicts. The authorities are implementing the conventional tactics against the opposition leaders and street protest organizers, as well as youth movements (anarchists, the Young Front), including threats, discrediting in the state media, searches, preventive detentions and short-term arrests. Simultaneously, local authorities have been empowered to engage in negotiations with the "moderate" opposition and to exempt virtually all social groups from the operation of the decree. The Belarusian leadership has allowed some freedom for local administrations and security forces in implementing the decree, which could mean it would be applied against most active citizens.

In addition, the authorities are attempting to isolate opposition leaders from communicating with the protest groups. The law enforcement has been seizing propaganda materials and office equipment from party activists in the regions. They launched a showcase prosecution against an inhabitant of the Belarusian outback for reposts on social networks about anarchists’ protest actions.

The authorities are likely to continue attempts to isolate opposition leaders from the protest groups among the population, to engage ‘moderate’ opposition in negotiations and to divorce oppositional political agenda from the people’s social and economic demands.

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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.