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.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.