Belarusian authorities have not stopped protests by suspending decree on ‘social parasites’
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Decree No 3 "On Preventing Social Dependency" has not been rescinded; however, its enforcement has been suspended for one year.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.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.