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 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.