Belarusian president reshuffles staff to strengthen weak links in regional bureaucracy
Last Friday, President Lukashenka appointed new officials and made several statements. The president uses staff reshuffles to ease tension in the most troubled regions and government agencies. For instance, following several controversies involving regional branches of the law enforcement agencies, the president replaced two regional heads of the Interior Ministry departments in Vitebsk and Brest, which could also be an attempt to strengthen local security forces in the fight against unauthorised protest activity. In addition, the president replaced leaders in eight districts, six of which in the Vitebsk region, in order to relax tension in society and reduce people’s complaints about failed regional economic and social policies. Lukashenka also appointed the new executive head in the biggest transport hub, Orsha, where social protests against the decree on social dependants held in February-March 2017 gathered most participants. The president is using staff reshuffle in order to reset the executive’s failures in socio-economic development in the regions, where people were the most discontent with the authorities.
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.