Belarusian authorities ready for dialogue with opposition to mitigate protest activity
The Belarusian authorities have demonstrated willingness to provide a platform for the opposition to communicate with the population - in the last two weeks, the Belarusian TV broadcasted three programmes with opposition leaders - Yanukevich (BPF), Kostusev (BNF), Dmitriev (Tell the Truth!) and Kalyakin (Fair World). Leaders of the pro-presidential parties also have been invited, including Gaydukevich (LDPB), Ulakhovich (former presidential candidate in 2015, BPP) and others. Most likely, the authorities are seeking to mitigate protest moods by engaging in a dialogue with the opposition and to reduce the pressure of the electorate on the authorities. In addition, the authorities seem to be considering options for strengthening political parties’ role in the country’s political life, however, without empowering them, or allowing winning seats in the elected bodies.
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.