Belarusian president weakens IT lobbying potential

March 06, 2017 10:30
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The president has reshuffled the management in the High Tech Park, one of the most successful state projects, in order to enhance the loyalty in the IT and reduce its lobbying capacity. The Belarusian authorities are likely to worry about the increasing influence of Tsepkala, former HTP head, effective manager and supporter of reforms. The authorities are likely to step up control over the IT by appointing a loyal manager to lead the HTP, who would avoid criticising the state economic policy.

Valery Tsepkala has been dismissed as the Director of the High Tech Park Administration. Before Tsepkala’s dismissal, the state media held a negative media campaign, which challenged the IT achievements in Belarus. Earlier, the president voiced criticism of the IT industry, which was likely an attempt to downplay the industry's value amid a downfall in traditional industries. That said, regardless of numerous attempts and the lack of budgetary funds, the government was unable to find measures to squeeze additional revenues from the lucrative IT.

Staff reshuffles have been the key element in the president’s human resource policy since he came to power. Tsepkala’s dismissal was likely due to some slowdown in the IT in 2016 (to 19%). In addition, managing a very successful governmental project for 11 years, Tsepkala started acquiring a symbolic authority in Belarus. Moreover, the former HTP Director belonged to the so-called liberal bloc and allowed himself some critical statements about the state economic policy.

Perhaps, the president was concerned about the growing weight of the IT in the Belarusian economy with a USD 1 billion turnover in 2016. The state regulates the IT, but the latter fell out of the ideological control, which required redistributing influence in the IT and boosting the loyalty to the Belarusian authorities. For instance, among the most likely new HTP directors could be former chief ideologist from the presidential administration Yanchevsky.

Former HTP head Tsepkala has a good chance to take one of the highest managerial positions, where his experience would be relevant in finding ways to bailout the Belarusian economy.

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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.