The opposition cannot solve the problem of low political activity among Belarusians

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April 22, 2016 18:27

On 24 March, an authorized demonstration was held by opposition forces in Minsk to mark the 95th anniversary of the Declaration of the Belarusian People’s Republic.

Commentary

The small number of demonstration participants shows that the format of political activity traditionally offered by the opposition is losing popularity among Belarusians. What is more, Belarusian society is ignoring mobilization attempts made both by the opposition and the authorities.

According to various accounts, around 1,000 people took part in the demonstration, which is very small. The core of the demonstration appeared to be made up by sympathizers of the national-conservative wing of the opposition (Belarusian Popular Front, Belarusian Christian Democrats), for whom the most significant value of the historical date of the 95th anniversary is the declaration of the Belarusian People’s Republic’s independence [on March 25th, 1918].  This group most actively takes part in similar events.

It should be noted that the joint application to hold the action was made by political organizations - representatives of the Belarusian Popular Front, the United Civic Party, ‘For Freedom’ movement, and the organization committee for setting up the party ‘Belarusian Christian Democrats’.

On the one hand, this indicates the readiness of opposition forces to act jointly around symbolic events. On the other, there is a lack of agreement among the opposition as before regarding joint long-term political initiatives (e.g. in the run-up to the next local and presidential elections). In particular, the politicians who spoke at the meeting did not present a similar programme of joint activities.

An important organizational detail should be noted separately: organizers of the action were unable to agree with the authorities about the legal use of full sound systems and were forced to limit themselves to hand-held loud speakers, which brings future major actions into doubt. 

As noted in summer 2012, the problem of low activity among Belarusians during election campaigns (and the low turnouts at electoral polls) also holds true for the opposition. What is more, the organization and the implementation of this demonstration shows that not only the authorities, but also the opposition are not yet able to mobilize significant groups of Belarusian citizens to participate in joint political actions.

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President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.

President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.

The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.

The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.

The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.