Belarusian opposition is likely to use opened window of opportunity

September 19, 2016 10:11
Image: TUT.BY

The Belarusian authorities have allowed the opposition in the parliament in anticipation that it would strengthen conflicts in the democratic camp. Meanwhile, by participating in the parliamentary elections the opposition has more chances to use the window of opportunity which has opened.

Under pressure from the opposition, the international community, the economic recession and threats from Russia to Belarus’ independence, for the first time in 12 years the Belarusian authorities allowed the opposition in the parliament, while preserving non-transparent vote count and voter registration and restrictions on campaigning. The authorities count on that stronger opposition is likely to start new internal conflicts and split-ups. Indeed, some members of the United Civil Party sharply criticized the party leadership for agreeing to the parliamentary mandate of Anna Kanopatskaya on unfair terms. Yet there are quite a few dissenting voices in social networks, the UCP partners in the centre-right coalition have not publicly expressed their agreement with the UCP decision (UCP leader Anatol Lyabedzka said that the decision was coordinated with the coalition partners). Criticism is caused primarily by the fact that for two years in a row the UCP was building its political capital on persistently condemning Tell the Truth campaign for the readiness to cooperate with the authorities – both, for participating in the "electoral performance" and for a hypothetical will to accept the parliamentary mandate from the government.

Simultaneously, a new generation in political parties, co-opted and/or introduced to the political scene in the parliamentary elections, is mostly in favour of the tactics of participation in the elections even on the authorities’ terms and supported the UCP decision to accept the mandate of Kanopatskaya, believing that all means to put pressure on the government are worthy. The UCP decision was supported by Tatiana Karatkevich (almost immediately), by Tell the Truth, by the Belarusian Popular Front leader Yanukevich, and by the Belarusian Social Democratic party (Hramada).

In turn, Anna Kanopatskaya and the UCP leadership outlined their plan to use the parliamentary platform, including, first of all, disclosing election fraud. Since the constituency of Kanopatskaya was not observed by the UCP but by Tell the Truth, the latter said they have passed all observation documents to the democratic candidate.

The overall impression of the moods in the democratic camp is that regardless of whether the opposition will be able to use the window of opportunity, opposition candidates and the opposition in general feel inspired by participation in the elections (especially new activists) and will seek additional pressure opportunities on the authorities.

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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.