Lukashenka defines the agenda for the referendum as purges of opponents and the media continue
The regime has no intention of engaging in dialogue with the opposition and refuses to bribe the electorate in the face of falling GDP. Instead, the siloviki (“security forces”) will continue to depoliticise society with repression.
In response to Putin’s statement about the need for dialogue with the opposition and the strong reaction of Western capitals to the migration crisis, the Belarusian leadership re-engages with the topic of the constitutional referendum.
The main innovation proposed by the amendments is the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, which Lukashenka envisages as an overarching superstructure over other branches of power which will remain under his control in the event of transition in other areas. However, the exact terms of the transformation are not specified, and Lukashenka usually delays such changes (sometimes indefinitely) after pressure from internal or external quarters abates.
Security forces proceed with purges that place most Civil Society activities outside the law. The authorities aim to negate the potential of civil society to mobilise protests and absorb activists into pro-government organisations.
The Supreme Court continues to liquidate NGOs, particularly those with a political inclination, such as the movement “For Freedom”, the BPF, “Adrajenne”, and “Tell the Truth”.
Action against the journalistic community also continues, aiming to strengthen self-censorship and limit the audience of independent media. BelaPAN editor-in-chief Irina Levshina and ex-CEO Dmitry Novozhilov have been accused of “creating an extremist formation.”
Trials of demonstrators continue, and the number of political prisoners increases to 876. The regime continues to demotivate activists with repeated arrests and prolonged detention under challenging conditions.
The slowdown in GDP growth is beginning to cause concern to the government. The National Bank relaxes monetary and fiscal policy under pressure from the government as annual inflation accelerates to 10.5%.
The authorities are generally not prepared to buy the loyalty of the population by mitigating falling incomes. The leadership is again counting on the security forces to bolster the regime. Still, on the eve of the proposed referendum, the authorities are considering the possibility of a slight increase in the minimum wage from January 1, 2022.
Regime forces will continue to repress the demonstrators of 2020 to demotivate supporters of change in the run-up to the referendum and purge the public sector of dissent.
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Situation in Belarus