Domestic politics: the most likely trends in 2016
In anticipation of the Russian market recovery, the government will attempt to obtain external financing from the IMF and the Eurasia Foundation for Stabilization and Development in order to maintain current social and economic policies. To this end, the authorities are ready to undertake a series of targeted and unpopular measures to curtail social protection for the population, for example, in the housing sector and the pension system.
The Belarusian authorities will tell foreign creditors that such measures are intended as elements of economic reforms, and to the population they will tell that foreign lending terms are harsh.
Nevertheless, the Belarusian authorities will not dare to make significant changes to the current socio-economic model without serious pressure from the population.
Public officials are likely to step-up the struggle for the redistribution of increasingly scarce public resources, which may result in several acute anti-corruption campaigns by the authorities, dismissal and prosecution of regional nomenklatura clans and businesses close to them.
In domestic policy, the Belarusian government is unlikely to decide to empower the opposition and enable it into the parliament and other representative bodies as a result of the elections.
The opposition environment is likely to continue reformatting and creating situational alliances before the parliamentary elections. Practically all political parties with regional structures plan to participate in the upcoming parliamentary campaign. Some leaders in exhale and opposition leaders with few human resources are likely to adhere to the boycott strategy.
Attempts of the democratic forces to unite within the frameworks of the Congress are likely to be futile. Even if the opposition manages to hold the Congress, it is unlikely to be attended by many opposition leaders and is likely to exclude many prominent opposition organizations.
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.