Conflicts within ruling group result in contradicting laws
On March 30th, the government issued a regulation No 241 “Small and Medium Enterprises Development in Belarus”, which bans the revision of state property privatization results.
Conflict of interest between President Lukashenko and the Government head Myasnikovich, as well as the need to comply with the international obligations on privatization force the government to implement palliative measures. In general such behaviour has a negative impact on the Belarus’ investment attractiveness and reduces international financing opportunities.
The ban on the privatization results’ revision should be regarded as a Government’s attempt to mitigate President Lukahsenko’s harsh line. The latter has not only revised privatization results (Kommunarka and Spartak cases), but also created the legal grounds for public intervention in the operation of a private enterprise in the future (amendments to the law on privatization were introduced, enabling minority shareholders’ interests to be represented by state agencies).
Formally, the Government’s proposal aimed at protecting private property and investors’ rights, and is consistent with the adopted in 2010 Presidential Directive No 4 “Development of entrepreneurship and stimulating business activity in Belarus”. But in reality, since 2011, Belarus’ state policy aimed at purposeful limitation of private investors’ rights in favor of expanded state’s authority to interfere in private property matters – regardless, of the reached international agreements.
In particular, the recent governments’ initiative reflects Prime Minister Myasnikovich’s desire to fulfill government’s obligations within the planned Belarusian state property privatization programme, linked with the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund’s loan. Myasnikovich was in charge of the loan agreement in 2011, and a co-signatory, along with the then Russian Prime Minister Putin.
Presumably, the President considers these privatization plans, not only as a threat to his authority, but also as a platform for Myasnikovich to gain political influence. Therefore Lukashenko initiated a privatization legislation review, and a media attack against Prime Minister Myasnikovich. So far, Lukashenko wins in this confrontation.
However, even if Myasnikovich is dismissed, the main issue will remain unresolved: what are the funding sources for the Belarusian economic model in the future? Clearly, this issue is much less important for the ruling group than the issue of power preservation by them.
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.