Public officials are encouraged to ensure high turnout in local elections

April 22, 2016 18:45

On February 20th, the amendments to the Law, envisaging the possibility for a public organization to be transformed into a political party, took effect.

Functionaries from the ‘Belaya Rus’ quango managed to lobby the adoption of these amendments in late 2013. In fact, the public association ‘Belaya Rus’ has been trying to become the ‘party of power’ since 2007, albeit unsuccessfully. As a rule, ‘Belaya Rus’ was strengthening its lobby ahead of the election campaigns in Belarus. President Lukashenko has no interest in such a political force emerging – he has been forced to make this symbolic concession to his officials. In response, during the 2014 local elections campaign ‘Belaya Rus’ will be responsible for ensuring high voter turnout on election day.

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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.