Belarusian opposition aims to expand support base amid growing tension in society
Most opposition parties are attempting to reach out to new social groups beyond the traditional opposition electorate from those affected by the decree on ‘social parasitism’. Different opposition groups offer a variety of approaches to opposing the decree on ‘social parasitism’ and albeit conventional supporters of the opposition are somewhat disoriented, it creates the preconditions for expanding the support base of democratic institutions and achieving success in revoking or amending this government initiative.
"Tell the Truth" campaign has invited ‘social parasites’ from across the country to discuss an action plan.
The opposition is using a wide range of means to engage those affected by the decree on ‘social parasites’ in party activities both, in the capital and in the regions. This includes signing a petition to abolish the decree and recall MPs; sabotage; litigating with the authorities; holding pickets, marches, round tables, and meetings with government officials; inter alia, through the Internet and social networks. By using different approaches, the opposition is able to reach out to broad population groups, which somewhat bridges diversities among the parties.
Organizers of the Belarusian National Congress (BNC) aim to mobilise supporters of street actions by organizing a ‘March of perturbed Belarusians’, an unsanctioned rally. “Tell the Truth" campaign aims to recruit new activists with no experience in politics by applying ‘safe’ pressure on the authorities. The centre-right coalition aims, on the one hand, to stop their supporters from joining the BNC led by Statkevich with harsh rhetoric and street actions (sanctioned by the authorities); and on the other hand, to attract new activists through MP Kanopatskaya and other forms of legal activity.
Amid growing tension and discontent in society, the authorities are showing concern about growing potential for street activity and engagement of new social groups. In the regions, local authorities refuse to sanction mass activity organised by the opposition in support for the abolition of the decree and impose heavy fines on participants in unauthorised actions. However, so far, the law enforcement has not taken any preventive action against the organizers of the unauthorized March. Perhaps, they count on differences among various opposition centres to build up over pressure strategies on the government.
Overall, some democratic organisations are attempting to step beyond the traditional opposition core inclined to boycott election campaigns. Should new social groups start supporting the opposition, its electoral potential would enhance by the local elections, scheduled for early 2018.
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.