Belarusian civil society in quest of cooperation with politicians
In the last two weeks, a public discussion about the place of Belarusian CSOs in politics their attitude towards politicians spontaneously started in social networks. This debate follows the recent split in the civil society, when some supported the ‘realism’ represented by ‘Tell the Truth’ during the last presidential campaign, and others supported ‘romantics’ represented by Statkevich and other supporters of the boycott/disregard (ie, non-participation in political campaigns on moral grounds). The conflict in the opposition and the failure of the boycott strategy, have prompted civil society activists to stay away from any political activity and to assuming the role of moral judges. In the past two weeks, opinion leaders, such as Karbalevich, Drakakhrust, Zisser, Bobrovich and others have raised the debate in social media about the credibility and appropriateness of such a position.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.