Belarusian authorities to reduce competition for parliamentary seats to preserve control over election process

August 17, 2016 10:56
Image: Yahieni Jerchak, TUT.BY

The Belarusian authorities are content with the high competition for the seats in the parliament so as it bridges the split in the Belarusian society and cuts supporters of radical changes. However, the Belarusian authorities are afraid to lose control over the electoral process in the case there are numerous candidates. The authorities are likely to filter out some oppositional and pro-governmental candidates from political parties and nomenclature.

The Belarusian authorities have sufficient legal instruments not to register most prominent and controversial nominees from the opposition on formal grounds. For instance, the authorities have warned several potential oppositional candidates during the signature collection stage, which could be a valid reason for their non-registration. In addition, late into the candidates’ nomination stage, Central Electoral Commission head Yarmoshina complained about some potential candidates, such as Ales Lahvinets from For Freedom movement and Andrey Dmitriev from Tell the Truth campaign, for being too active. Nevertheless, the brightest potential candidates are unlikely to be tossed out at the registration stage.

As usual, President Lukashenka warned business against interfering with the electoral process and noted that efforts to finance candidates’ campaigns would be futile. It should be noted, however, that unlike in previous years, the president’s rhetoric in respect of business was relatively mild and did not contain any direct threats.

The Belarusian authorities have created a large reserve of loyal candidates from political parties and public institutions, which could be tossed out. In some districts, several nomenclatural candidates or nominees from pro-government parties have applied for the registration as candidates. Apparently, potential candidates have exceeded in number the authorities’ capacity to control the election process.  The election organisers therefore are likely to filter out a lion’s share of applicants to an acceptable level.

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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.