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.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.