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 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.