Forget Lukashenka – Remember Belarus – Digest of Belarusian Analytics
Over the last two weeks, Belarusian analysts devote much attention to Belarus-EU relations. A major Amnesty International report on Belarus came out. Analysts discuss privatisation and female politicians in the country.
Forget Lukashenka – Remember Belarus – politician Andrei Dmitriev names Lukashenka a politician of the past and offers to stop using the legacy code "Lukashenka" – and start to create and use the new code: "We and Our country". Dmitriev calls to join the discourse of the new majority – the work on the national agenda of change which provides a social agreement about the changes, where the main principle is "not Who instead, but How after."
What is not Permitted is Prohibited: Silencing Civil Society in Belarus – Amnesty International’s report analyses the legislation governing freedom of peaceful assembly and association and documents violations of these rights faced by human rights defenders, trade unions, environmental campaigners and sexual minorities individuals. The report shows how the authorities in Belarus regularly deny the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, preventing people from speaking out in public, holding demonstrations or setting up civil organisations.
BISS Political Media Barometer #3 – BISS presents its report for October – December 2012 and offers the analysis of political media following the 2012 parliamentary campaign period in Belarus. The report notes growing differences between the forces inside and outside of Belarus. The main topic of communication of those actors/forces outside of Belarus are repressions while those in Belarus focused on social sphere and internal questions of political parties. Meanwhile, media pay much more attention to stories of repression and political conflict.
What Do Belarusians think? – A video capturing the most interesting moments of the discussion What Do Belarusians Think? is available online. The discussion took place on April 12, in Vilnius, and focused at the newest results of national public opinion polls carried out by Belarus’ leading pollsters and analysts. The event was organized by the Eastern European Studies Center (EESC, Lithuania) and the Belarus Research Council (BRC).
PR1MUS: Yaraslaa Ramanchuk (audio) – Yaraslau Ramanchuk, head of Mises Research and Analysis Centre, sums up the development of the Belarusian economy for the first three months, analyses the two long-running privatisation deals – MTS and MAZ and argues that now the Belarusian government is carried away by the stimulation of the economy and just forgot the future.
Female Politician: Reality or Nonsense? – Tatiana Schurko notes that in the modern world, despite the declarative statements on gender equality, women are still faced with the barriers that hinder their promotion into the political sphere. Government leaders and all active women in politics are still not so much that connected with gender stereotypes and prejudices. The expert presents the history of women's political rights, gives the actual statistics of women in governance, and describes the stereotypes that exist in Belarus in this field.
The Holly War for a Water-Pump Station: Notes to the Latest Events – Andrei Yahorau, Centre for European Transformation, appeals to the recent conflict among the political members of the opposition when Alexander Milinkevich and Andrei Sannikau expressed different points of view if the EU should have a dialogue with the official Minsk. The expert considers the conflict "the highest point of absurdity" because the opposition was left aside the dialogue between the EU and Minsk long ago. Until the political opposition is in state of disorganisation and only gives useful pieces of advice, nobody will take it seriously, Yahorau summarises.
Three Levels of Misunderstanding – Uladzimir Matskevich, the head of International Consortium EuroBelarus, suggests his vision of the situation why the discussion of Belarus-Europe dialogue permanently provoke sharp conflicts within Belarusian political opposition. The analyst singles out three types of incomprehension: the level of ordinary people who are not initiated into the subtlety of international politics; the political level, when professionals don’t understand the essence of dialogue; and finally, the level of intraoppositional competition and struggle when every leader tries to get in the mainstream of European politics.
Prospects for EU Policy Towards Belarus During the Presidency of Lithuania – Kinga Dudzińska and Anna Maria Dyner, the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), note an intensification of political and economic relations between Lithuania and Belarus and expect that Lithuania will use its presidency of the EU Council to resume a dialogue with the Belarusian authorities. The experts consider that this would be a great success for Lithuanian diplomacy.
Analysis of EU Instruments for the Development of Civil Society in Belarus – experts of Centre for European Transformation (CET) prepared working papers that analyze two thematic EU instruments – European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and Non-State Actors and Local Authorities (NSA-LA). The papers consider the priorities of EU instruments and draw some conclusions on their capacity in the Belarusian context. The papers are a part of the CET study aimed to analyse effectiveness of EU programs for the development of civil society and democracy in Belarus.
Traps and Opportunities of the European Policy towards Belarus – Whether there is a shift in the EU dialogue with the official Minsk? What are the reasons of this shift, what are traps and possibilities there; what is the role in the process of civil society? Radio Svaboda discusses the mentioned issues with Pavol Demes, German Marshall Fund, Kamil Klysinsky, Polish Center for Eastern Studies, and Kirill Koktysh, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
The Chernobyl Way 2013
On 26 April 2013 Belarusian authorities and the opposition marked the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster: each in its own way. Alexander Lukashenka went on a trip to the polluted areas as did opposition leaders Anatol Liabedzka and Vital Rymasheuski.
The Belarusian opposition also gathered around one thousand of its supporters in Minsk under antinuclear energy slogans, protesting against the new nuclear station erected close to the border with Lithuania. Since 1989 it is a tradition for many Belarusians to commemorate the event in the form of street manifestation on the 26 of April called the Chernobyl Way (Čarnobylski šliach in Belarusian).
Lukashenka's visit resulted in an extensive coverage in all state media while the opposition event was covered by independent media, including detentions by plain clothed individuals which followed the opposition event.
What Is the Chernobyl Way?
The number of participants this year seems low compared to many previous rallies. Today it is hard to believe but in 1996 over 30 thousand Belarusians manifested in the Chernobyl Way. In 1996, the police forces brutally intervened in the rally and dispersed it arresting dozens of people.
The Chernobyl Way is no longer associated solely with the events that took place in 1986. Nowadays it has a much wider meaning. Political slogans always intertwine with the economic and social ones. For others the rally on 26 April is the only opportunity to express their disapproval for the erection of a nuclear power plant in Belarus.
Participants usually carry the white-red-white flags of the pre-Lukashenka Belarus and banners mocking the president or raising up the current political issues. Almost all the previous rallies ended up with the police intervention and detention of a number of activists.
The organisers and participants learned their lessons how to deal with the city authorities to obtain permission. In 2011, after presidential election protests aftermath which a few oppositional leaders remained in prison, the Chernobyl Way took a form of a gathering only, without a procession. This year it was a rally from the centre of Minsk to a designated location equipped with loudspeakers.
Video: The Chernobyl Way-2013 opposition demonstration.
It seems that Minsk are prepared to tolerates this already traditional Chernobyl Way. Each year the organisers receive the required permission for a public gathering. The state, however, wishes to maintain a monopoly over the marking the anniversary. With the full support and loyalty from the state media, it is much easier to achieve it.
Belarusian authorities refrain from initiating public discussion of the Chernobyl disaster consequences. The Chernobyl disaster still remains an ‘invisible catastrophe’ in Belarus with little information or discussion in the official public space.
The state media serves its role here. For example, the state TV channel reported only on the official memorable events that took place in Belarus. The journalists presented Lukashenka’s visit to Homel and the official event in Minsk. The reporters did not mention a word about the Chernobyl Was as it did not take place at all.
Aleksandr Lukashenka marked the anniversary in his own way. Traditionally, he decided to appear ‘closer’ to the ordinary people and visited the Khoininskii district in the Homel area. In accordance with the established tradition, Lukashenka met with the local people, publicly criticised officials and praised achievements of the state in the region. He also demanded production of only 'clean' products in the contaminated area. These 'spontaneous' meetings with people and officials are subsequently covered in detail on state TV channels.
Video: Belarusian State TV covers Lukashenka's visit to the contaminated area.
Chernobyl through the Prism of Belarusian Politics
The truth about the consequences of the radioactive explosion remained a top secret in the Soviet times. With the years and Lukashenka coming in power, the commemoration of the event became difficult, but possible.
During the Friday rally many people protested against the construction of a nuclear plant in the city of Astravets close to the Lithuanian and Polish border. It makes sense that people express their protest in the streets because the Belarusian authorities initiate no public debate on this issue. The Chernobyl Way remains a rare opportunities to express their ‘no’ to the state’s plans.
Aleksandr Lukashenka clearly dislikes the idea of the Chernobyl Way and mocked it in public at some occasions. For example, in 2011 he said ‘they want with this fascist-minded rally walk on the street, demonstrate. Go to demonstrate to the zone’. However, every year Belarusian authorities give permission the organisers to the opposition rally in the centre of Minsk.
But as most other opposition events yesterday the Chernobyl Way ended with detentions, mostly made by people in plain clothes. Several people were released while others, including journalists were charged with disobeying police and are now awaiting their trials.