Political situation: the most notable trends in 2014
In 2014, the most notable trends in 2014 in Belarusian politics were:
- Electoral support for President Lukashenko rose amid a fall in real incomes and a high level of demand for change within Belarusian society persisted;
- Belarusian society were deeply divided over the events in Ukraine and attitudes among supporters and opponents of the incumbent president were polarised;
- The government paid more attention to public safety, for example, by strengthening the roles of law enforcement agencies and intelligence services in public administration;
- The authorities tentatively distanced themselves from the “Russian World” and initiated nation-building, inter alia, by incorporating some values of their opponents in the state paradigm;
- Minsk grew in importance through its attempts to ensure regional security and to preserve a balanced position in the Russo-Ukrainian confrontation;
- Contacts with Western capitals were more frequent as Belarus sought to normalise relations on her own terms;
- Belarus became more engaged in Eurasian integration and more dependent on the Kremlin.
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.