Belarusian opposition street actions start gathering more participants

April 22, 2016 19:44

Last week, Minsk hosted a traditional event dedicated to the Freedom Day, which was sanctioned by the city authorities. According to different estimates, the demonstration was attended by between one and two thousand people, including many young people. The law enforcement has neither interfered with the demonstration, nor detained participants, despite the fact that the opposition leaders had violated the permitted format and organized an unauthorized meeting. In addition to conventional for this day rhetoric in support for Belarus’ independence, some participants and organizers attempted to introduce political and social slogans. The absence of repressions after the 2015 presidential campaign and mild reactions by security forces to street activity, have made unsanctioned opposition activities more attractive for the people. If the law enforcement does not resume tough repressive measures to curb protest activity, traditional authorised opposition rallies are likely to gather more participants.

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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.