Opposition aspires to join forces to strengthen control and predictability of protest movement
Belarusian opposition parties are strengthening coordination in response to enhanced pressure by the authorities</em><em>. The opposition has relaxed rhetoric towards the Belarusian leadership and demonstratively refused from unauthorised street activity. The authorities are likely to sanction the Chernobyl Path, a traditional opposition rally, but would restrict the opposition activity on the May Day in order to divorce the political agenda and socio-economic demands of the population.
The opposition applied to the Minsk City Executive Committee for an authorisation to hold Chernobyl Path, a traditional rally on April 26th.
In preparation for the Chernobyl Path, a traditional opposition rally, and the May Day Solidarity March, the opposition has formed a broad alliance, including political organizations and independent trade unions. Meanwhile, the enlargement of the coalition has led to enhanced tension between the Belarusian National Congress and Tell the Truth, which is likely to lead to some members leaving the coalition. The parties aim to return socio-economic issues to the agenda by focusing on preparations for the May Day events.
However, it is unlikely that the opposition's calls for a national strike would gain popularity among the workers' movement and would materialise. That said, the authorities are making additional efforts to ensure full employment and strengthen loyalty of employees.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities managed to weaken the protest movement and reduce the influence of supporters of street protests led by Statkevich on the opposition agenda, including by discrediting the BNC leadership. Moreover, the authorities have prompted the opposition to focus on human rights violations, counteracting repression and reformatting opposition alliances, all of which drives it away from social demands of the population.
The Belarusian leadership is likely to preserve arbitrary approach to authorising public rallies; it would sanction the Chernobyl Path rally, which should be less popular among the population, and would restrict the opposition activity with socio-economic demands on May Day. The authorities are likely to localise the opposition activity on May Day and authorise some May Day demonstrations in some regional cities, however, would oppose to massive opposition-led events in Minsk.
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.