Belarusian authorities tighten political activity rules before the election
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.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.