Annual review 2017: civil society and political parties moved beyond the oppositional agenda
Amid narrowing social base of support for the current leadership, civil society and the opposition attempted to use the window of opportunity and engage new supporters among those discontent with the state’s socio-economic policy. Yet civil society and the opposition have not formed a critical mass of active supporters of change to promote systemic reforms. Nevertheless, both, civil society and the political parties demonstrated a positive dynamics in mutual cooperation and working with the population and increased their influence on the state policy.
Progress with the local agenda and some items on the national agenda
Civil society successfully used crowd funding to finance some of their activities. Different local initiatives, involving public and political activists, managed to prompt the authorities to revise or abandon altogether previously adopted decisions.
With its constructive stance, “Tell the Truth” complemented the non-compromising Belarusian National Committee and right-centrists in the dialogue with the Belarusian leadership. This facilitated the adoption of compromising decisions on topical issues, such as the suspension and revision of the decree on social dependants, greater openness of the Defence Ministry and staff rotation in Pechi military base, where hazing and the death of conscript soldier Alexander Korzhich occurred.
Tension among political parties reduced due to the abandoning of the struggle for leadership within the opposition and disputes about a single presidential candidate. Instead, parties focused on working with different social groups. Yielding to the opposition pressure, the authorities were prompted to take over some opposition initiatives in the context of ideology revision, such as, for example, concern for the protected area in the Kurapaty tract, where mass shootings occurred during the communist period.
Complementarity due to the division of areas of responsibility
Throughout the year, the Belarusian National Committee, headed by Statkevich, attempted to revive street protests. Albeit the BNC activities did not cause the winter-spring protests, they facilitated the creation of frameworks for the population to manifest their discontent openly. The political agenda of street leaders did not appeal to the majority of the population, however, the BNC protest activity reverbed in society with discontent due to authorities’ mistakes when adopting the decree on social dependants and the accumulated discontent with the socio-economic policies.
“Tell the Truth” also attempted to engage dissatisfied citizens who were not ready for decisive actions and street protests, in their activities. They focused on the dialogue with the authorities within mutually acceptable frameworks. Coupled with the potential gained by former presidential candidate Karatkevich of “Tell the Truth” during the presidential campaign, such approach allowed to bring many new activists and nominate greater number of candidates in the local elections as compared with other parties.
Centre-rightists used a combined approach: they engaged in street protests in the regions during the peak period but refused to participate in unauthorized rallies amid enhanced repressions by the authorities. Centre-rightists succeeded in promoting their interests at the international level and putting the situation in Belarus in the focus of attention of their European partners from the EPP.
Main threats in 2018
Tensions among the opposition parties may escalate as they enhance focus on the intra-opposition agenda and the struggle for leadership
The power block may strengthen its influence on the state policy, toughen response to street protests and step up repressions against the opposition, civil society and independent media
Brief forecast for 2018
The opposition is likely to insignificantly increase representation in the local councils
A constructive approach is likely gain ground in political parties and civil society, but the ultimate forms of activity are likely to retain
- Civil society is likely to expand cooperation with the state
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Situation in Belarus