Informational mobilization creates no grounds for street protest
Last week Belarusian cities saw violence in public places and villages continue fighting against local epidemic of African swine flu.
The risks to public safety and citizens’ welfare remain high in Belarus. However, there are no grounds to anticipate wider mobilization of the population. There are no sufficient grounds for political mobilization.
Despite the ‘dead’ summer season, Belarus’ information space remains highly active four years in a row. Since the 2010 presidential campaign, summer season informational agenda is extremely rich: the financial crisis in 2011 and parliamentary elections in 2012. This summer’s breaking news relate to public safety issues and rural residents’ well-being and come from all over the country.
On June 22nd, people waiting at a bus-stop were shot at from a car in Minsk. On June 23rd, in Pinsk a man seriously wounded two local residents from a shotgun hunting rifle. On June 24th, a man was beaten up and shot from an air pistol in Minsk at a bus stop by three attackers. The Interior Ministry said that one of the suspects was a football fan and also made public that it collects football fans’ personal passport data and videotapes them.
Finally, the measures against African swine flu (the authorities seize and destroy livestock) were not effective and spread beyond Grodno region, reaching Stolbtsy district, Minsk region. In villages the situation is tense: villagers are prepared to slaughter their livestock to avoid seizures. On June 25th, authorities imposed a monetary compensation for the seizure of healthy animals.
However, the society’s mobilization should not be anticipated. Low social mobilization is due, primarily, to summer and holiday season: people leave cities on weekends and plan short-term travel abroad. In particular, in 2012 the number of Belarusian tourists who traveled abroad reached a record high for the last 5 years (492.8 thousand people against 319.8 thousand in 2011).
In addition, seasonal migration factor is affecting the mobilization: available direct and indirect evidence suggests that labor migration from Belarus to Russia is unabated. Therefore, it is unlikely that the increased security risks will trigger any mass demonstrations or protests.
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.