Outcomes for 2015, Forecast for 2016
Outcomes for 2015: a deep recession and dim prospects for economic recovery
Forecast for 2016: conservation outguns innovation
Most important trends in 2015
- Conservation of the socio-economic model
- Increased demand for systemic transformations in the Belarusian society, especially in the economy
- People’s expectations of the state’s social protection lowered
- The state cut social guarantees to the population
- Some political elite acknowledged recession and the need for reforms
- The government divided into supporters of market reforms and antireform conservatives
- Reduced capacity for mobilisation for both, the authorities and the opposition
- Cautious neutrality in foreign policy
- Minsk earned a reputation of a peacekeeper
- Enhanced attention to national security
Main threats in 2016
- Tensions and protest moods in society will rise due to falling living standards and a cutback on social protection
- Deeper economic recession due to the lack of political will to reform the existing socio-economic model
- The Kremlin will step up pressure to deploy a Russian military air base in Belarus in exchange for financial aid and loans
- Amid dwindling state resources and fewer opportunities to distribute budgetary and export flow of funds, conflicts in nomenclature and state sidekick businesses will mount
- Minsk and Brussels will exhaust potential for reciprocal concessions in the process of Belarusian-European normalization
Most likely trends for 2016
- The state will imitate reforms in order to obtain external financing
- The likelihood of real economic reforms will depend on oil prices’ dynamics
- The state apparatus will step up the struggle for the redistribution of resources
- The opposition will reshape before the parliamentary elections
- Minsk will anchor its peacekeeping reputation and neutrality on the international arena
- Belarus will evade direct involvement in inter-state conflicts on the Russian side
- The authorities will abandon practices of supporting employment at any cost
- Industrial production capacity will continue to reduce
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.