Belarusian opposition parties step up fight for supporters

October 10, 2016 10:52
Image: Vadzim Zamirouski, TUT.BY

After the parliamentary elections, the Belarusian opposition is regrouping; the centre-right coalition has softened its positions and supporters of protest activity have become more active. Organizers of the Belarusian National Congress, led by ex-candidate and former political prisoner Mikola Statkevich are attempting to win over supporters of the UCP, who are disillusioned with its leadership. In the near future, the opposition leaders are likely to step up mutual criticism.

The centre-right coalition has held the constituent assembly of the Assembly of People's Representatives, the so-called alternative parliament.

Nikolai Statkevich, the Belarusian National Congress (BNC) co-organiser, lashed out at his colleagues from the centre-right coalition and announced the next unsanctioned protest action. The BNC organisers aspire to recruit new supporters from the centre-right coalition, among those who are disillusioned with the UCP leadership for accepting Anna Konopatskaya’s deputy mandate. The BNC headed by Statkevich is attempting to disassociate from the centre-right and become a hard critic of the Belarusian leadership.

It is worth noting that many opposition activists have condemned the United Civil Party, including other members of the centre-right coalition, for the decision to accept the parliamentary mandate and support Anna Konopatksaya, an opposition representative in Parliament.

The centre-right coalition has abandoned the strategy of tough confrontation with the authorities in favour of cooperation with the Belarusian leadership to promote their programmes. As the coalition is not yet set to choose a single presidential candidate, there is only minor tension among the coalition members.

Although some parties continue to cooperate, the opposition is disengaging. For instance, the pre-election initiative to hold consultations between the main opposition parties has been abandoned and major opposition structures, such as Tell the Truth and the Belarusian Popular Front, stay outside coalition agreements.

In the post-election opposition re-shaping, the Belarusian National Congress led by Statkevich has strengthened its positions by engaging those discontent with the opposition parties for cooperating with 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.