Workers increasingly dissatisfied with economic policies and step up protests in Belarusian regions
Due to wage delays, workers at Molodechno Blue Steel Plant have gone on strike and refused to come to work. Non-payment of wages, falling incomes, stoppages, reduced working hours and mass layoffs are gradually leading to growing tension among the population in the regions working at state enterprises. If protest activity escalates, the authorities would be ready to meet the workers’ demands. When presidential campaign starts, the authorities are likely to use internal reserves to remedy the situation in the labour movement and to temporarily freeze protest activity. Political activity and protest voting is therefore unlikely to increase during the election period.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.