Construction industry reform creates opportunities for civic leaders
During the week, residents in different districts of Minsk held protest actions against developers and city officials.
Belarus’ construction industry problems and increased attention to them by the authorities create opportunities for greater civic activity in Minsk. Belarusian opposition has not yet embraced this opportunity.
Currently the situation is favourable for greater legitimate civic activity in residential and business construction spheres. On the one hand, the government has organized an open campaign to reform the construction industry (working group meetings, chaired by Presidential Administration Head Kobyakov, held three times a week with the participation of the KGB and State Control Committee leaders).
The working group meetings broadcasted by state TV and print media, a ‘hot’ line is organized in the Presidential Administration. In addition, field sessions are planned for the working group. Preliminary results of the working group’s efforts to reform the construction industry will be announced in September-October 2013.
On the other hand, citizens’ activity is increasing, especially in Minsk, where residents protest against so-called ‘construction consolidation’ in urban areas, as well as against the violation of housing commissioning deadlines. The protests are mainly pickets and rallies in residential yards. In addition, tenants and shareholders are making a video clip and prepare written petitions to the city government and Presidential Administration. Residents in different Minsk districts consolidate their efforts and support one another.
The state and the Police in particular, react neutrally to such protest actions by residents and shareholders, which implies common interests of the ruling group and the population regarding construction industry reform, even though they have different priorities: the redistribution of influence in the construction market on the one hand, and solving problems of concrete households on the other. Such temporary coinciding interests objectively create preconditions for greater legitimate civic activity and for meeting some citizen’s demands related to the construction industry reform.
Belarusian opposition is not yet engaged in this process. The ruling group is not interested in protests’ politization and citizens understand that if their demands are shifted to the political level before the elections, repressions might follow.
Therefore, the construction industry reform will have greater civic effect, than political. Emerging civic solidarity structures and leaders will build up and strengthen their influence through urban protest activity.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.