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Belarusian authorities tighten political activity rules before the election

April 22, 2016 18:11

On May 8, U.S. Ambassador to OSCE Mr. Kelly expressed serious concern over the increased number of arrests in Belarus. Earlier Belarusian human rights activists appealed to the UN to urgently respond to an unprecedented wave of arbitrary arrests in Belarus. Since the beginning of June about 40 people were detained in Belarus on various grounds.

Such a harsh reaction of the authorities on the eve of not yet officially announced parliamentary campaign aims to tighten the rules of conduct in public places for the opposition. Most likely, the government pursues two goals. Firstly, street arrests meant to suppress a potential renewal of social networks protests, which were actively used by “Social Networks Revolution” opposition youth movement in the summer of 2011 and demonstrated inability of the city police to react adequately.

Secondly, it is likely that numerous and seemingly uncoordinated detentions of civil and political activists, journalists and academic community representatives have a common base. The majority of the Belarusian opposition already denies the democratic nature of the upcoming parliamentary elections and is preparing to boycott in various forms. The authorities in their turn also demonstrate that they will use any opportunity to prevent such actions.

The probable logic of the Belarusian law enforcement agencies is that in response to the boycott of the parliamentary elections by the opposition, the government will boycott the opposition, i.e. will put it in a very narrow legal framework for mass street actions. Earlier, the Belarusian parliament has prudently amended relevant laws with tougher measures.

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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.