Belarusian opposition is attempting to shape public interest in adjustments to political system
Last week, several dozen people held a rally in Minsk on the anniversary of the 1996 referendum. Unlike discussions in the independent media about the referendum in 1996, not many people participated in the oppositional event. In turn, the loyal Liberal Democratic Party proposed to hold a new referendum to adjust the political system in favour of the party system, which would strengthen the nomenclature groups and create the mechanisms of power succession. In autumn 2016, organisers of protest activity repeatedly attempted to mobilize their supporters to participate in street actions, but to no avail, there were few participants in their events. The Belarusian authorities continue to apply financial pressure on the opposition through high penalties for the most active participants and have not used force in counteracting unauthorized activity. Such financial approach to curb the protest activity has proved efficient. Meanwhile, the population demonstrates political apathy and indifference to the appeals by the opposition to join protest activity with political slogans.
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.