The referendum picks up pace. State media adjusts its approach, and government-sponsored NGOs (GoNGOs) take centre stage
The Lukashenka regime aims to consolidate loyalists by developing GoNGOs and state media’s superficial criticism of local officials. The Central (CEC) and Local election commissions devalue the right to vote, hide the names of referendum organisers and conduct campaigns.
The authorities continue to consolidate the electoral apparatus and cultivate a benign environment for the referendum organisers. The CEC conceals the names of members of precinct election commissions in direct violation of the electoral code. Dmitri Pavlichenko, the ex-head of the Special Rapid Response Unit (who, according to the member of the unit Yuri Garavski personally shot Belarusian opposition politicians Yury Zacharanka, Viktar Hanchar and Anatol Krassouski), is organising mobile groups of former security forces to assist in the suppression of protests. The Investigative Committee initiates criminal cases after petitions from members of election commissions.
In violation of the law, members of regional election commissions are campaigning in favour of constitutional changes, indicating a shortage of reliable personnel and limited support for the proposals even within the public sector.
Pressure on political prisoners is intensifying as the referendum approaches. Searches are being carried out among the political prisoners in the penal the colonies throughout the country.
The number of political prisoners continues to increase, and the criminal prosecution of activists continues, as does the crackdown on dissent. However, activists detained in the regions are released without arrest or fines after administrative cautions.
The state intends to consolidate vertical control of society by absorbing politically engaged citizens in activities controlled by GoNGOs. The Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM) is preparing to take over the functions of charities that have been liquidated as security forces continue to undermine horizontal ties in society.
State control over the legal community is strengthening with regime loyalist Shvakov appointed as chairman of the bar association.
The Lukashenka regime aims to significantly complicate the financing of protest movement activists and civil society. He has ordered the High Tech Park to create a register of addresses of virtual wallets “used for illegal activities.” Transfers of funds to political prisoners in detention centres are characterised as financing terrorism.
Ideologues adapt local media policy to improve credibility by allowing minor criticism of local authorities and state organisations (e.g., housing and communal services). State media influence is increasing, and in some regions, local authorities are actively involved in a campaign of coerced participation on state social networks and Telegram channels.
The authorities are trying to bolster confidence in the Ministry of Health by publishing COVID-19 incidence statistics.
Lobbyists for the public sector and import subsidies are strengthening their influence on the government. The Monopolies Regulator (MART) blames domestic inflation on imported goods.
The state economises on state employees and relies on ideological purges to ensure loyalty. Officials talk about low salaries in cultural institutions. The new head of the Ministry of Education declined to motivate teachers with salary increases. Covid allowances for doctors are being reduced.
Before the referendum, preventive arrests of activists in the regions are possible, and state employees will be mobilised for early voting.
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Situation in Belarus