Independent Pollsters Will be Prosecuted – Belarus Politics Digest
Fines for unsanctioned polls. The House of Representatives approved in the first reading a bill of amendments, which would establish administrative liability for non-licensed public opinion surveys. The fine would in particular be established for “illegal” polls asking people about their opinion about political situation the country, a national referendum, or parliamentary and presidential elections. It would equal 20 base rates (about $240) for individuals and up to 100 base rates (about $1,200) for legal entities.
New IISEPS survey. In June, the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies (IISEPS) conducted a survey of public opinion on major issues of life of Belarusians. In particular, the experts observe stabilization of the "economic health" of Belarusians, but also an increasing number of people who believe that Belarus needs changes (77.3%). Also, Alexander Lukashenka's electoral rating has dropped to 29.7% compared to March (34.5%).
Council of the Republic adopted the draft law on KGB. On June 22, the upper house of Parliament adopted the draft law "On the State Security Bodies of Belarus". The law establishes the basic tasks, activities of state security, the responsibilities of the president and government in the field of the state security. The bill defines the conditions and limits of the security organs with regards to physical force, special equipment, weapons and military equipment.
Art-Siadziba ousted. Pavel Belavus, the Art-siadziba director, was summoned by the premises owner (the administration of the Horizont plant) that they must leave the office by July 23 and that their contract that had to expire at the end of October has been cancelled. The reason for it was the fact that they violated fire safety and numerous other regulations.
Amnesty International declares Pochobut prisoner of conscience but he is released shortly. In a statement on June 26, Amnesty International has declared Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut a prisoner of conscience detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. On June 30, Andrey Pochobut was released from the Grodno prison under travel ban.
Opinion of animal defenders taken into account. The claims of CSOs involved in animal protection, as well as ordinary citizens were taken into account and the draft law "On the treatment of animals" was sent back for revision. It was reported by the internet community "Right to Life."
Uruccha protesters dispersed by police. Leanid Mazhalski, one of the leaders of a group of people protesting against a infill construction in Uruccha city district was detained in Minsk on July 5. The hearings in court are scheduled for July 17. It should be noted that inhabitants of Minsk protested against the construction of six blocks of flats for riot policemen in the district. The construction works are going on in spite of their protests.
National Gender Policy Council’s structure approved. The Council of Ministers approved internal regulations of the National Council for Gender Policy. Along with numerous government officials, the Council will include representatives of at least three women CSOs: Gender Perspectives, Young Christian Women Association and Women’s Independent Democratic Movement.
The draft law on state social contracting adopted by the Parliament. On June 27, the House of Representatives adopted the amendments to some laws on social service. One of the most important parts of the bill is introduction of the mechanism of social contracting that allows nonprofit organizations to get funding from the state budget.
Deputy Minister participated in the CSO training. On June 26-27, NGO "ACT" together with Mogilev oblast executive committee held a training on "Social contracting basics" for Mogilev officials. Among the speakers there were the deputy chairman of the Mogilev Regional Executive Committee Valery Malashko, as well as Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Alexander Rumak.
EU creates pro-democracy fund. On June 25, EU member states agreed to create a European endowment for democracy aimed to encourage "deep and sustainable" change in societies struggling under oppressive regimes, EU observer informs. The fund should become operational by next year and will primarily target EU neighbouring countries such as Belarus, where people are routinely jailed for showing opposition to President Alexander Lukashenka.
PACE committee statement on Belarus. The Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in a statement on June 26, urged the Belarusian authorities to "open up political space" ahead of September's parliamentary elections. The statement called on the Belarusian leadership to promote a democratic and fair parliamentary campaign and to ensure freedom of expression, association and assembly, as well as political rights for all opposition movements.
Ashton calls on authorities to stop harassment of opponents. In a statement on June 29, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has called on the authorities in Belarus to stop the harassment of the opposition, media and civil society, expressing deep concern at a number of recent incidents.
Worst of the Worst 2012. A new Freedom House report "Worst of the Worst 2012: The World’s Most Repressive Societies" highlights those countries that earned the lowest possible scores (Worst of the Worst) or fell just short of the bottom scores (On the Threshold) in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom House’s annual global assessment of political rights and civil liberties. Belarus was deemed to be “On the Threshold” together with Burma, Chad, China, Cuba, Laos, and Libya.
Linas Linkevicius appointed as Lithuanian new ambassador to Belarus. Linas Linkevicius, a former Lithuanian defense minister, has been appointed as the Baltic state's new ambassador to Belarus, said a spokesperson for the Lithuanian embassy in Minsk on July 5.
UN appointed a special rapporteur on Belarus. On July 5, the United Nations' Human Rights Council adopted a resolution and agreed to appoint a special rapporteur to monitor the situation of human rights in Belarus and to make recommendations for its improvement. The 47-nation council voted to create the post, as proposed by the European Union, by 22 votes to 5, with 20 abstentions. Belarus does not recognize the mandate of the UNHRC Special Rapporteur on Belarus and will not cooperate with him, the press service of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus said.
Belarusian envoy speaks against the appointment of rapporteur on Belarus at UN Human Rights Council. Mikhail Khvastow, Belarus' permanent representative to the UN Office in Geneva, said on June 28 during a session of the UN Human Rights Council that there was no need for the appointment of a special rapporteur on Belarus.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.
Why the Young Do Not Join the Opposition – Digest of Belarusian Analytics
Belarusian analysts focus on the role and strategy of the Belarusian opposition, the balance of powers before the parliamentary elections, sources of legitimacy of Alexander Lukashenka and Schengen visas for Belarusians.
Lukashenka and his Opponents Preserved in a Crystal Vessel – Alexander Klaskovsky analyses the age structure of the Belarusian opposition and identifies the lack of the influx of young forces there. As a result almost 18 years of continuous pressure the opposition in Belarus is now assigned a role of whipping boys. Most of the opposition leadership is old and has been there since early 1990s.
The costs of being in the opposition are significant – beatings, arrests, prison sentences, constant pressure by security services and difficulties with earning a living. The benefits of being an opposition activist are very limited because the opposition is not getting any political appointments and is generally excluded from political decision-making in the country. As a result, young people are not interested in joining the opposition which makes it an even less attractive and less competitive force in Belarusian society. The journalist concludes that the opposition naturally degrades along with the formal political system: “Under these conditions, the country simply is rolling down to the level of third world countries and is becoming a de facto colony of the Kremlin”.
The Balance of Power inside the Opposition Before Parliamentary Elections 2012 – Analytical Belarusian Centre published its review dedicated to the upcoming parliamentary elections. The experts address issues such as the formation of the Belarusian opposition in several streams with a different vision for the transformation of the Belarusian regime and collaboration with existing elites, as well as the participation of the opposition in the last parliamentary campaigns and the issue of the Eastern vector of foreign policy of Belarus.
The Unity of the Opposition is a Myth, Fetish, Created by Analysts and Journalists – political experts Alexander Feduta, Denis Melyantsou and Yevgeniy Preygerman answer the questions of the ERB and explain what will be the end of the September parliamentary elections, why there is no unity, and how much the boycott costs. The participants generally agree that the opposition should take the opportunity of elections to strengthen their membership base and conduct an effective information campaign. This is one of very few opportunities to do it legally in Belarus.
How Stable are the Belarusian CSOs? – Vladimir Korzh, chief executive of NGO "ACT" and one of the authors of the annual CSO Sustainability Index in Belarus, speaks in his interview to AMPby.org about the Index's methodology and the results of the assessment of the stability of Belarusian CSOs in 2011. In particular, the expert state s that there is some stability and even trends towards improvement in the Belarusian third sector – the last three years consistently Belarus receives 5.9 out of 7 points.
"Third Way" for Belarus – Alexander Avtushko-Sikorski (BISS) analyzes Alexander Lukashenka appeal at the ceremony to celebrate Belarus' Independence Day. The expert notes that the speech keeps a set of "classical" semantic blocks. The main difference of this year is changing in the foreign policy rhetoric, which practically does not affect relations with the West and Russia, and includes a new topic of integration as a special path of development for Belarus.
The Dilemma of the Fourth Term – Alexei Medvetsky (Agency for Political Studies) discusses the sources of legitimacy of the fourth term of president Lukashenka. Based on the recent events, the expert concludes that the Belarusian president is inclined to opt for the familiar popular support. However, the nomenclature and the power elite are definitely not interested in letting him go "to the people", so they will continue their passive and active fight to the detriment of his credibility.
Weekly election monitoring report: June 18 – 24. The campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" released the #1 issue of the weekly analytical report on monitoring results. In particular, the authors note that “the election campaign begins in unfavourable environment, on the background of political repression, in conditions of the pressure on the opposition forces and the civic society.”
Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in June 2012 (in English) – Human Rights Centre Viasna released its monthly review of human rights violations. In particular, the experts see that events in June clearly demonstrated that the Belarusian authorities consider human rights issues only in the dimension of political relations with the EU and other countries of Europe. The focus of these relations was still on the problem of political prisoners.
Belarusian Yearbook-2011. BISS and website of the Belarusian expert community «Nashe Mnenie» ("Our Opinion") published the Belarusian 2011 Yearbook. The book was presented in Minsk’s “Ў” Gallery on June 26. Each edition of Belarusian Yearbook (this year has seen its eighth version) is more than just a collection of analytics – it is a chronicle of the country’s contemporary history written by impartial unbiased researchers and analysts.
Analysis of consular statistics of the Schengen countries in 2007-2011 – Andrei Eliseev (BISS) explores the dynamics of the Schengen visa issuing in 2007-2011. The expert concludes that Schengen countries are more open to citizens of Belarus, than for residents of other countries of the Eastern Partnership (EP). In comparison with the countries of EP and Russia, Belarus leads on the following parameters in the ratio of per capita: the total amount of short-term Schengen visas; multiple Schengen visas, and the number of national long-term visas (Category D).
Recommendations for Privatisation in Belarus – the recommendation report is based on discussion and presentations delivered at the conference privatisation and private entrepreneurship in Belarus – scope for international assistance” on April 16-17, 2012 in Warsaw. The conference was a part of a new initiative of the European Union towards Belarus “The European dialogue on modernization with Belarusian Society”.