Belarusian democratic community is disappointed in opposition
Last week, social media users and newspaper readers had a broad discussion of two articles (first, second), which accused opposition politicians of failing to reach an agreement on joint participation in the parliamentary election campaign. People were disappointed in the opposition because they believed that the later could only win if it had united. Apparently, the democratic community in Belarus links the victory of democracy in Belarus only with the democratic opposition.
On May 3rd, democratic organisations held consultations during which they had failed to reach an agreement about forming a single list of opposition candidates for the parliamentary elections scheduled for September 11th, 2016. The following organisations participated in the consultations, which were intended as a tool for regular coordination among democratic organizations: the United Civil Party, the Belarusian Popular Front, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), Fair World Belarusian Leftist Party, For Freedom, European Belarus, solidarity movement Razam, independent trade union RAP, Belarusian Christian Democracy, the Belarusian Social Democratic party (Narodnaya Hramada), Belaruski Rukh, the Workers’ Party, the Party of Women Nadzeya, and the Party of Freedom and Progress.
Two of the largest independent online media TUT.by and Belarusian News have published sharply critical articles in response to the reluctance of democratic organizations to act jointly in the parliamentary elections. For instance, Alexander Feduta, said the opposition leaders had become professional beggars, who neglected the interests of democratic voters. In Feduta’s view, voters were interested in a single opposition candidate, and the opposition’s only success in the past 20 years was during the 2001 elections, when under the pressure of the OSCE AMG head a single opposition candidate was nominated.
Political analyst Artyom Shrayban took a similar positon in his article for TUT.BY. He marked that the elections would be held under new rules, requiring a simple majority vote, regardless of the turnout. In his view, the fact that the opposition had split, and would not run a single campaign would create the opportunity for the authorities to win without fraud. Shrayban quoted opposition trust rating chart by IISEPS, which showed that the rating had not risen above 20% since 2011.
Both articles have been praised by social media users. Democratically minded electorate, when pondering about why Belarus had failed a democratic transition, has accused the opposition, which was unable to unite. That said, in 2015, people accused the only oppositional presidential candidate Tatsiana Karatkevich and Tell the Truth of splitting the democratic camp.
Yet the democratically minded electorate is not prepared to take at least some responsibility for political processes, i.e. accept the fact that there are too few of them to ensure the victory for a single candidate or to put an ultimatum to the authorities, and that whether united or not, the opposition would be unable to improve the situation.
In the 2015 presidential elections, two political parties - the United Civil Party and Fair World – failed to collect the required number of signatures for their leaders. Political parties in Belarus may marginalise completely and fall out of the legal political process, which is why they have decided to fully participate in the parliamentary elections in 2016 for the first time the last eight years.
Political leaders and opinion leaders have a different view on current political situation in Belarus: political parties are afraid to lose the ability to play within the legal field completely, while opinion leaders have an optimistic view on the opposition capacities.
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.