President reinforces ideological foundation for security forces
On July 1st President Lukashenko spoke at a meeting to celebrate Belarus’ Independence Day.
President Lukashenko remains dependent on the law enforcement bodies’ support. Simultaneously, Lukashenko’s increased defensive rhetoric opens new possibilities especially for security officials.
In his speech, Lukashenko put emphasis on a range of threats in contemporary Belarus. If in 2012 the president spoke mostly about historical perspective – Minsk liberators’ heroism against the Nazi invaders – in his recent speech he focused on political, economic, informational and ideological threats in the modern globalization era.
In particular, in his usual manner Lukashenko said that Belarus, led by him, will firmly defend its sovereignty in foreign policy, will fight for new markets and will pay particular attention to information security, including developing cooperation with China in this field. In this regard, the most interesting was Lukashenko’s statement about his coming meeting with Chinese President.
Today such typical of Lukashenko ‘defensive’ rhetoric has a very specific effect: the law enforcement agencies’ influence in the Belarus’ government is growing. The announced by the President ideology aiming at protection against external and domestic threats fits the best the security agencies, which based on this ideological foundation, improve their status in the Belarus’ political system and expand their powers.
Recently, during his visit to the Operative and Analytical Center (OAC), Lukashenko demanded from its staff to strengthen the fight against corruption. Noteworthy, the primary purpose for creation of the OAC in 2008 was telecommunication networks and data protection. In addition, the State Security Committee (KGB) has recently been empowered to control potash fertilizers’ international trade in and to carry out a large-scale inspection in the Belarus’ construction industry.
Also there is a possibility that the law enforcement agencies will be empowered to supervise other non-core areas of social and economic activity. For example, the Interior and Defense Ministries active involvement in activities to prevent and eliminate the outburst of African swine fever may well result in somewhat institutionalization of cooperation between the power and veterinary authorities.
These tendencies are part of a broader trend, implying strengthening of the security forces’ role in the decision-making in Belarus. This process has been consistently gaining momentum after the presidential election in 2010. Consequently, country’s law enforcement agencies grow in number at a pace one new structure per year, and the degree of interdependence between the president and the security forces is only increasing.
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.