Pressure works: two opposition members in the Parliament

September 12, 2016 15:22
Pictured: Alena Anisim (Frantsishak Skaryna Belarusian Language Society) and Hanna Kanapackaja (United Civic Party), who managed to get into the Parliament/На фото Алёна Анисим (ТБМ) и Анна Конопацкая (ОГП), прошедшие в парламент

For the first time in 16 years two opposition members – Anna Kanopatskaya (United Civic Party) and Alena Anisim (Francišak Skaryna Belarusian Language Society) got into the Parliament as a result of the election campaign. This means that the authorities yielded to pressure in the most sensitive issue for them (even if on their conditions). The main result of the campaign is that the authorities have acknowledged opposition’s political weight and its right to be represented in the Parliament. This means that systematic pressure from the opposition and the West can bear fruit.

Alena Anisim’s selection to the House of Representatives was somewhat expected, as there were no strong candidates from the authorities at her Staŭbcoŭski voter’s district #70.

However, naming Anna Kanopatskaya as the winner in Kastryčnicki voter’s district #97 (the same district where Tatsiana Karatkevich, ‘Tell the Truth!’ ex-candidate to president-2015 was a candidate) is an unexpected step by the Belarusian authorities. Most probably, this step was taken to reach a number of goals:

  1. The most important (the same applies to the case of Anisim) – let the opposition to the parliament as a response to the pressure from the opposition and the West as well as the growth of the protest sentiment in the Belarusian society.
  2. Stripe Tatsiana Karatkevich off her position of the second politician in popularity and influence in the country thus again equalling the political weight of the opposition
  3. Divide the centre-right coalition whose leaders were vocal advocates of the unacceptability of any agreements with the authorities, in particular when it came to playing the election game by the authorities’ rules. It is worth mentioning that the United Civic Party, Belarusian Christian Democracy, and ‘For Freedom!’ Movement to a great extent built their political capital on the harsh criticism of what they perceived as ‘Tell the Truth!’ civil campaign’s over-compromising with the authorities.
  4. Choose the candidate whose patron, leader of the ruling party in the European parliament – European People’s Party (EPP) Joseph Daul, stated before elections in Minsk that the elections in Belarus would pass according to the scenario of the authorities and that the EPP would not play along this scenario; however, he supported the dialogue with the authorities in case of progress on the elections.
  5. Camouflage the very fact of the concession with the scandalous step, show that even the fulfilment of terms depends on the arbitrary rule of the authorities.

However, all these reasons don’t change the fact that the authorities accepted concessions and that systematic pressure without ultimatums works.

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Death penalty discussion in Belarus: yet not ready for either abolition or moratorium
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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.