State Awards Policy as Stability Factor for Authorities
On February 1st, President Lukashenko conferred state awards to representatives of industry, construction, civil servants, law enforcement, military, athletes, cultural and art workers.
Regular state awards ceremony is an additional tool to ensure loyalty to the country’s supreme leadership. The Belarusian state awards policy clearly demonstrates President Lukashenko’s priorities: the focus is on the law enforcement agencies’ officials.
The award ceremony held by Alexander Lukashenko on February 1st, was the third in 2013. These awards’ characteristic feature is President’s increased attention to the Law Enforcement agencies: of 246 awarded in 2013, 215 persons (87%) represented various Belarus’ law enforcement agencies.
The same trend can be observed over a longer period of time. Among the awarded in 2012, the vast majority were law enforcement officers – over 80%. Most frequently issued state decoration in Belarus is the medal “For Distinguished Service” of III degree.
Regular award ceremony held by President to decorate security officials should be considered as one of the tools to ensure their loyalty to the President. In turn, regular ceremonial meetings attended by the president enable the Belarusian power elite to attend additional gatherings to harmonize their interests, which, in turn, are a prerequisite for the stability of the state power in Belarus.
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.