The opposition cannot solve the problem of low political activity among Belarusians
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.
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.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.