Opposition fails to agree on single candidate for 2015 presidential election
Consultations among seven leading democratic organisations about holding the Congress of Democratic Forces (CDF) and electing a single opposition candidate have failed – two participants in the negotiations, the United Civic Party and the leftist "Fair World", have refused to sign a CDF agreement.
These two parties have refused to participate in the CDF process due to the low level of mutual trust between the opposition leaders; scarce resources for the presidential campaign; the lack of an overall strategy; and the lack of hope that democratic transformation will take place in Belarus during the presidential elections in 2015. Amid high support ratings of the incumbent president and the protracted crisis in Ukraine, opposition leaders primarily need to preserve their organisational structures and influence among the opposition. A repeat of the 2010 presidential campaign scenario is likely, with several opposition politicians running for president in an effort to promote and strengthen their organisations.
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.