Opposition steps up struggle for political course
The organising committee of the Freedom Day celebration has failed to agree with Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich the rally format on March 25th, 2017. The opposition has stepped up struggle for leadership in fighting against decree No 3. Major rivals include the BNC initiators led by Statkevich and leaders of other opposition parties (UCP, BPF, BCD, For Freedom, Tell the Truth), who disagree about the tasks and responsibilities in the fight against the decree. Due to the lack of unified position among the opposition a week before the event, preparations for the rally unfold amid a negative information background, while the authorities step up repressions against the organisers and potential participants. All this may have a negative impact on the overall participation in the rally. In addition, the lack of clear agreements between opposition alliances could lead to unpredictable actions by protesters during the rally and a tough response by the law enforcement.
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.