Opposition follows track set by parliamentary campaign

April 22, 2016 18:24

Belarusian opposition remains divided along the same lines as after the autumn parliamentary elections. This split impacts the attitude towards both, the 2015 presidential election and activities in between elections. The forecast is that the split of the opposition into at least two blocks will remain until the presidential election.

In early January, the Belarusian Popular Front, the “For Freedom” and “Tell the Truth!” movements started consultations about a single candidate for the 2015 presidential election. The appearance in early 2013 of the ‘triplex’ coalition of one political party and two major social movements gives them a temporary head start to prepare for the campaign. 

In turn, opposition parties that have not yet decided about their pre-election tactics, risk falling into a temporal trap and may not have the time to implement their initiatives. This is especially true for the United Civil Party, which has already proposed a procedure for determining a single opposition candidate via so-called primaries however it has not yet found allies to implement this project.

Among other proposals related to the selection process of a single candidate and forming a single coalition were: holding Coordinating Council meeting, Popular Assembly and Congress of Democratic Forces. However they all were discarded. Today opposition politicians incline towards ‘small’ coalitions based on personal and corporate connections, rather than contract binding broad opposition coalition.

Thus, in early 2013, the Belarusian opposition can be divided into three groups. The first group unites supporters of participation in the presidential election in the single candidate format (‘triplex’). The second group is yet undecided about participation in the elections in a single-candidate format. This group, however, has solidarity regarding the politicians and journalists disappeared in 1999-2000 - an extremely sensitive issue for the ruling group.

On January 24th, the UCP Party invited all democratic forces to recall the disappearances of politicians and journalists in Belarus in 1999-2000 and received a positive feedback from the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy and the “Fair World” Party. It will be recalled that in December 2012 former head of Minsk detention center No 1 and political refugee Mr. Alkayev said that he had new evidence that could shed light on the disappearances.

Finally, the most radical opposition immigration focuses primarily on the information work. The organizing committee head of the National Revival Council Mr. Borodach runs his analytical campaigns in the internet, which do not find response from the opposition politicians in Belarus. Former presidential candidate and political refugee Mr. Sannikov also limits to interviews in European media, without making any policy statements and acts primarily as an expert on foreign policy towards Belarus.

Since there are no attempts of rapprochement between the different blocs and, in fact, there are no grounds for it, most likely outcome will be the nomination of several candidates from different political blocs. Apparently, the issue of a single opposition candidate should be removed from the agenda.

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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.