Belarusian government avoids disorienting state apparatus over intended economic reforms

October 10, 2016 10:57
Image: president.gov.by

The Belarusian government is unlikely to reform the existing socio-economic model in the near future, regardless of the growing pressure from the population. A significant part of the state apparatus is not ready to reduce the state's role in the economy and to change social policies. The president is attempting to achieve a consensus in the government regarding socio-economic reforms.

In his address to the outgoing MPs, President Lukashenka emphasised that the opposition wanted to destroy the existing state structure and to hold reforms in their vested interests.

President Lukashenka said that the vertical of power was monolithic and that there were no discrepancies among public officials about the country’s further development. Apparently, the president is attempting to shape a consensus among officials regarding the further development of the economy’s state sector. That said, the president attempted to reassure the part of the state apparatus and state managers who were cautious about the privatisation, and noted that traditional approaches to denationalisation would be preserved.

Meanwhile, in fact, the President has recognised the growing popularity of socio-economic reforms in society. However, he seeks to shift the responsibility for possible negative consequences of socio-economic reforms from the authorities. Yet the authorities do not feel enough pressure from the population to carry out reforms.

Apparently, part of the state apparatus regards proposals by the opposition parties as reasonable, which prompts the leadership to reiterate the usual rhetoric about threats to officials from the opposition. It is worth noting that recently, neither oppositional candidates during the parliamentary elections nor a single political party appealed to lustration. In addition, the opposition issue has returned to the official discourse, which reflects the growth in popularity of the opposition parties among the population.

Nonetheless, the Belarusian government would be prompted to introduce some adjustments to the existing socio-economic model, despite the reluctance of the senior management.

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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.