Sannikov tries to maintain political autonomy
Andrei Sannikov’s team seeks to preserve political autonomy and to establish an independent political emigration center. This process is complicated by still unclear Sannikov’s public policy objectives and by the lack of support from the rest of the Belarusian opposition forces, who have already recognized the Rada of the Belarusian People’s Republic as a focal point for political forces in immigration.
On November 13th, in an interview with the Belarusian service of “Radio Liberty”, the former Presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov said that his representative was not allowed in negotiations concerning elaboration of the so-called “Vilnius Memorandum” of the Belarusian opposition. He also described the document as unprofessional and threatening the Belarus’ independence.
According to Sannikov, a representative of “European Belarus” civil campaign, which he heads, was not invited to discuss the ‘Vilnius memorandum’, a document signed by 12 opposition forces on November 3rd in Vilnius. A number of actors also signed the memorandum post factum. Mr. Sannikov expressed a number of comments about the document and in the end he refused to sign it. Later, BNR Chairwoman Iwonka Survilla said, that an invitation to the meeting had been sent to Sannikov’s group, along with a draft Memorandum for discussion.
Most likely, the conflict between the “European Belarus” and the BNR is deeper and not related to organizational issues of the meeting in Vilnius or professionalism of the Memorandum authors. Since the signed Memorandum recognizes the NBR’s exceptional legitimacy as a Belarusian authorities’ body until the fall of the Lukashenko regime, it would be logical to explain Sannikov’s refusal to sign it by that his group has plans to create an alternative government in exile.
In the meanwhile, “European Belarus” has not yet proposed any positive programme for political action and limits itself to criticism of their colleagues in the opposition. At the same time, the majority of the “European Belarus” activists have already left Belarus, in particular, Mr. Bondarenko (Sannikov’s trustee) and Mr. Atroshchankau (Sannikov’s former press secretary). The “European Belarus’” best-known project is a socio-political website “Charter 97”.
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.