Lukashenka is hoping to cement the vertical power structure at the All-Belarusian Assembly; security forces carry out purges in residential areas in large cities targeting protesters
By Zmicier Kuchlej
Amid preparations for the All-Belarusian People's Assembly, the gap between the ruling class and Society has further widened as the authorities have lost their remaining feedback channels with the population. The state has introduced further cuts in the social package to broad groups of the population and relies on the forceful coercion of society and political indifference. Security forces continue to deter protest activity in residential areas with acts of violence.
The authorities have raised rates and introduced new taxes while benefits for some groups have been withdrawn as prices for socially significant goods rise. Pharmacy chains are preparing for a 10% rise in the cost of medicines and medical products starting from February.
Lukashenka has declared 2021 the Year of National Unity, which means neither a dialogue with opponents of the current leadership nor a public debate on the country's future. The incumbent leader intends to return protest activity to pre-election levels by force, remove the 2020 election results from the current agenda, and retain his dominance in the public sphere. Apparently, an increase in the number of ideological events promoting the official narrative and, (most likely) denigrating opponents and protest symbols has been planned, which will only increase division in society.
Raids by the security forces on city courtyards, unwarranted brutality, detentions and beatings have not stopped during public holidays. The Prosecutor's Office proposes to increase the penalties for unauthorised street activity.
Delegates to the All-Belarusian People's Assembly are being drawn from the deputies of local councils (about 70%) and state associations (about 30%), i.e. from among the existing executive. The authorities have concerns about nominations from workers' collectives due to the process's possible politicisation and senior management distrust.
Lukashenka aims to consolidate and tighten control within the edifice of power, repairing the damage caused in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to repress protest movements further.