The regime has completely lost its legitimacy and credibility, even in the echelon of officials.
The protest potential in Belarus remains very high. Director of the Political Sphere Institute, Ph.D. in Political Science Andrei Kazakevich stated this in an interview with Radio Svaboda:
- The problem of legitimacy and trust to the authorities remains, the image of the law-enforcement agencies has fallen to the lowest point in the entire history of independent Belarus. We cannot even say that everyone within the system is satisfied - there is no increase in salaries for state employees. There are no clear benefits for those who suppressed the protests, I mean the second echelon, civilian officials. Their work is uncomfortable, people began to treat them worse. I hold on to the idea that changes will come, maybe it will take a little longer to wait for them.
- North Korea is kept under an almost total blockade. In Cuba, salaries were five dollars a month, and the regime lasted 50 years. What can optimists hold on to? Why is Belarus not Cuba or Korea?
- Yet in Cuba and North Korea, the majority support the regimes. It is difficult to find examples when a minority preserves power by military force. Perhaps the regimes that existed 50 years ago. Maybe the last obvious example is Burma, or some regimes in Africa.
You are right to say that Belarus is not Cuba or North Korea. Our country is much more open, and much more compelled to pay attention to what they say about it both in the West and in Russia.
As for optimism ... I say that the system will change one way or another.
If you do not have legitimacy, it requires large financial investments, this reduces the efficiency of work, and the ability to earn money. This also reduces the motivation of people to work in the civil service, in state enterprises. The motivation of business to invest in the country, and foreign business to come to it shrinks. This also means a constant decrease in opportunities to receive external funding. Few want to finance countries with unstable political systems.
By the way, this is the first time since 2008 (when Belarus began to open up) that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development ceased to implement projects in Belarus.
Likewise, in the East, everything is ambiguous. The money that Russia gave is clearly not enough, and there is no feeling that their flow from there will increase.
The solution of all these problems without the solution of the political crisis, in my opinion, is impossible.
- Will the big protests return or not?
- I think that the intensification of protest activity will happen, including at the regional level. There will be big marches. I think so, arguing by analogy. We remember 1996, when the mobilization took place, which lasted until 1999.
So I think that something will happen. Moreover, the economic and political situation is not being resolved in any way.
But it's hard to predict. How no one could have predicted that this large-scale, epoch-making event in Belarusian history would happen - the protests of 2020, which endured for three months on a very large scale.
Another phenomenon is taking place here: the emergence of new media and the fall in the rating of state television.
- How important will the external pressure be? Can we hope that the West will intensify economic and political pressure on Belarus in 2021 after the Christmas holidays, the deployment of vaccinations and the lockdown end?
- The 2020 sanctions are quite tangible. The Belarusian authorities were counting on the projects of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank. Obviously, cooperation with the World Bank will also be terminated.
Add to this the decline in tourism caused by the pandemic and political crisis. There will be much fewer people coming. And tourism in 2019 gave about $ 250 million.
This economic pressure may be even more sensitive than the diplomatic pressure.
At the same time, the sanctions that were introduced last year should bring results this year.
Accordingly, the authorities may have a need for internal political de-escalation and national dialogue, without which it will be difficult to find external resources even from Russia, let alone the West. All this is impossible without stabilizing the internal political situation.