Civil Society promote budget transparency; political parties have concerns about West-2017-military drill; repressions against trade union leaders
Civil society consistently promotes initiatives aimed to improve transparency in the most problem areas, such as the budgeting process and the allocation of funds from the Social Security Fund. Political parties have stepped up pressure on the authorities due to the West-2017 military drill and repressions against trade unions. "Tell the truth" has attempted a dialogue with the Defence Ministry to relax tension in society, and the Belarusian National Congress started mobilization in anticipation of autumn protests.
Civic activists are trying to step up control over the state budget and public funds. Enhanced transparency in this field could relax tension in society in the view of budgetary cuts on social protection and, possibly, prompt the state to a dialogue on reforms. For instance, SYMPA initiatives have been successful on the grassroot level and boosted public activity to enhance control of the state institutions. For example, public activists have launched a petition demanding to increase the transparency of the Social Security Fund through the website "Comfortable City". In addition, such initiatives from the expert community strengthen the potential of the opposition in prompting reforms in a dialogue with the authorities, and in mobilising the supporters of changes.
"Tell the Truth" leader, Andrei Dmitriev has proposed to the Defence Ministry to create a public commission, comprised of politicians, experts and civil activists to monitor the West-2017 Russo-Belarusian military drill. Initially, the Defence Ministry responded to this initiative through its Twitter account, however soon after, downplayed its response.
The Minsk city authorities have not authorised a street protest against the military exercise to be held opposite the Russian embassy in Minsk, proposed by the Belarusian Popular Front. Meanwhile, the Belarusian National Congress, led by Statkevich, has announced a rally on September 8th, 2017 against the drill. Most likely, the majority of the population is indifferent to the Russo-Belarusian military cooperation (or positive). The initiative of the Tell the Truth is likely to appeal to the Belarusian expert community, while the rest of the opposition would divide between the supporters of street protests (the BNC) and electoral campaigns by right-centrist and the BPF.
Last week, the BNC and the centre-right coalition have focused on defending trade union leaders. The focus on repressions and distraction from the social and economic agenda has narrowed the support for the opposition to conventional protest groups in society and could lower the motivation of activists to participate in the local election campaign.
Apparently, civil society and expert initiatives aiming to prompt the authorities to enhance the transparency of the public spending and to reform the state administration, are likely to gain popularity among the population, especially amid budgetary cuts on social protection. Supporters of a dialogue with the authorities could also increase the number of followers and boost the reform agenda through cooperation with expert initiatives. The opposition’s focus on repressions and West-2017 military drill is unlikely to improve their ratings or increase their followers.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.