Protests in Belarus

February 28th, 2017   Theme: Belarus

Alexander Lukashenko issued on April 2, 2015, Decree No. 3 to “prevent social dependency”. Known among the population as the decree against spongers, tax on parasitism, vagrants law, idleness decree, it applies to all inhabitants of Belarus (regardless of citizenship), provided they spend more than half of the year in Belarusian territory, who have not paid taxes for more than 183 calendar days during the year. The duty amounts to about 230 euros.

During the last two weeks, protests against the Decree have been taking place in different Belarusian cities. In February 17 and 19 more than 2,000 people rallied in Minsk, Gomel Mogilev, Vitebsk, Brest and Grodno against the measure. The last protests on Sunday 26 took place in Vittebsk, Bobruisk, Baronovichi and Brest, gathering more than 3000 people. The marches went forward without incident, and without advance approval from authorities. About 60,000 people have signed a petition opposing the law.

Protests against Minsk’s efforts to extract more money from the population via Decree number 3 have shifted from being about the economics of that action to being a political protest against Alexander Lukashenko. This contest between the Belarusian population and Lukashenko has also been strengthened by the fact that Belarusian lawyers are now rushing to help those rejecting the law.

Belarussian observers have come to the following conclusions: the sense that no one in the country supports the idleness decree, the regime can’t imprison all those who won’t pay the tax (estimated now in more than 415.000 people) and Lukashenko is now frightened.

Adding to these protests, another one is escalating in Kuropaty where opposition activists are protesting against the construction of a business center near the site of the mass graves. Protesters say they expect more provocations from Lukashenko forces but in the current environment, any use of force by the Minsk regime is more likely to spark more protests rather than to intimidate anyone.

Is Belarus entering a revolutionary situation? In that case Lukashenko is unlikely to survive.  What happens now will depend not only on Belarusian people, on Lukashenko and his government reaction, but also in the responses from Moscow and the West if protests escalate.


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