Civil society in Belarus is increasing its influence
On May 7th, Minsk City Executive Committee refused to enter into a contract for the construction of a recreational centre in the centre of Minsk.
Protests against the compact construction become an important factor in the civil society formation and consolidation in the capital. These developments had non-political nature.
The Minsk City Executive Committee’s non-approval of a construction project to be implemented in a green area in the city centre was a result of protests by about a thousand local residents who sent their appeals to the Prosecutor’s Office and the State Control Committee asking to abandon the project.
This movement’s mobilization potential is fairly large, given its non-political nature. As a rule, such protests are carried out as pickets and collective appeals to the authorities. In particular, one of these appeals - against the residential building construction on the playground in Tsnianskaya Street - was signed by circa three housand people.
Citizens’ protests and the Minsk City Executive Committee’s decision to waive the construction project do not necessarily have a cause-effect relationship. But clearly, Minsk residents’ civil activity is increasing. In particular, in early April, a number of community initiatives, advocating against sporadic commercial development in vaious Minsk districts signed a memorandum of cooperation.
Organizational core of this residents’ movement is non-registered public association “Evroperspektiva”, which was denied registration by the Justice Ministry two times. The association is led by Victor Yanchurevich, a candidate for Parliament’s Deputy in 2012.
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.