Minsk not to complicate relations with Western capitals by persecuting former candidate Mikhalevich
The Belarusian authorities have briefly detained ex-presidential candidate Ales Mikhalevich, who returned to Belarus from the exile. Official Minsk does not want to complicate the emerging positive process of normalization in Belarusian-European relations by imprisoning former 2010 presidential candidate. Mikhalevich said nothing yet about his plans regarding returning to politics and his arrival to Belarus is unlikely to affect the pre-election alignment in the opposition. Nevertheless, he might become more active in the opposition politics after the presidential campaign in Belarus, which will certainly depend on the authorities’ actions after the elections. In particular, bearing in mind not yet closed criminal case against Mikhalevich.
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.