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February 6 – February 12, 2012

Belarusian authorities attempt to achieve the most benefits from the potential clemency of the political prisoners

The situation has not changed
Belarusian authorities attempt to achieve the most benefits from the potential clemency of the political prisoners

The pardoning of Bondarenko and Sannikau would allow the opposition to take part in the parliamentary elections and would also legitimize the whole election campaign. The delay in releasing the two political prisoners is connected with President Lukashenko’s absence in Belarus and is most likely explained by his personal hostility.

On February 1, Bondarenko, an election agent to presidential candidate Sannikau in the 2010 elections, wrote an appeal for clemency.

The release of Bondarenko is very probable, as is the release of former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau, who earlier wrote an appeal. If this takes place, the oppositional forces will receive an additional stimulus against the boycott, and in favour of participating in the parliamentary campaign in September 2012.

The probability of Bondarenko and Sannikau’s release is strengthened by the lowering of the opposition’s demands. On January 31, the opposition forces signed a ‘Declaration for a Public Discussion’ in which they demand only the swift release of political prisoners, but not their additional rehabilitation (which is a demand of the international community).

The lowering of demands is of benefit to the authorities as it allows them to neutralize the political prisoners who have been released in the capacity of political opponents. Along with this, the likely release of Bondarenko and Sannikau will weaken the position of those in favour of an active boycott of the elections among the opposition and will lead to the majority of the opposition forces to take part in the election campaign in some form or other.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.
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