Belarusian opposition adds political demands to socio-economic discontent of population
The opposition started inviting to the Freedom Day March before the authorities’ approval. Political parties anticipate mobilizing not only activists, but ordinary citizens to participate in the traditional Freedom Day celebrations with political and socio-economic slogans. Apparently, the march organised by the opposition could attract more people than in previous years, including many participants from the regions. Meanwhile, the law enforcement has already locked in some opposition organisers from the centre-right coalition and could use pre-emptive detentions against regional activists. By arresting leaders of the centre-right coalition, the authorities have created a gap in the Belarusian opposition between the supporters of negotiations with the authorities ("Tell the Truth") and the leaders of the Belarusian National Congress, who advocate for street pressure on the Belarusian leadership. In the case former political prisoner Statkevich leads the protest rally on March 25, the march would be more politicised and conflicts between the protesters and the police could arise, leading to the use of force by the latter.
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.