Amid increased speculations about change of power in Belarus, importance of security forces enhances
A debate in the independent media and expert community about the prospects for change of power in Belarus may cause tension among various state departments and prompt President Lukashenka to intervene. In the Belarusian nomenclature, the fight between supporters of Belarusian-Western normalisation and those advocating for tougher role of the security forces has exacerbated. In addition, part of the Belarusian opposition would like to regain influence on the Belarusian-European relations by weakening the authorities’ pro-Western policy.
Next week, President Lukashenka will debrief the law enforcement agencies.
Some independent media outlets published speculative reports about the change of power in Belarus, President Lukashenka’s possible successor and dispositions among nomenclature groups. Apparently, media and expert community anticipates enhanced imbalances in the Belarusian nomenclature.
Amid lingering tension in the Russo-Belarusian relations and speculations about Lukashenka’s inability ‘to solve political issues with the Kremlin’, the controversy about a successor could actually bolster some contradictions in the Belarusian government. Some analysts still believe that the Belarusian officials preserved dual loyalty to Minsk and Moscow yet from the Soviet times, which is unlikely so. Nevertheless, some state agencies, the security forces and industrialists in particular, are rather oriented towards preserving a special relation with the Kremlin and regard the lingering tension between Minsk and Moscow as Moscow's dissatisfaction with Belarusian-Western normalisation.
Belarusian Foreign Ministry, led by Makey, was also subjected to information attacks, so as he was regarded as the chief architect behind the improvement of relations with Western capitals. It is worth noting that if the Belarusian authorities fail their new Western policy, the positions of street activity supporters will strengthen and the opposition may regain the influence on the Belarusian-European agenda.
In the near future, due to information attacks and speculations about the change of power in Belarus, the president is likely to lose confidence in some state agencies and strengthen the role of the security forces.
Yet the Belarusian authorities have not taken any action to prevent massive protests against the decree on ‘social parasites’. On February 26th, 2017, multiple protests against the decree were held in three Belarusian regions in Vitebsk, Baranovichi, Brest and Bobruisk (more than 4 000 people participated in total). Very likely, the authorities, on the one hand, anticipate that the decree will be abolished, and other hand, do not want to take responsibility for decisions either on the decree or on the protests.
It should be noted, that the mass street protests on February 17th, 19th, and 26th, were held in the absence of the president in the country. There are reasons to believe that the authorities did not expect such a massive action. The state propaganda responded tangentially, insisting that protests were unjustified, because ‘the state did not require a lot’, despite the fact, that the protesters primarily complained about the lack of jobs in the country. In addition, the protesters pointed to the unfairness of the requirement to pay the tax for being unemployed as the state could not provide job and money making opportunities, while people were humiliated by the need to prove to the state they were unable to pay the tax.
In the past ten days, there were several protests against the decree, which were characterised by the following: the protesters easily picked up anti-Lukashenka slogans; they eagerly shared their outrage with journalists; many protesters said it was their first time when they took to the streets; protesters were ‘common people’, i.e. not political activists; there were fewer white-red-white flags during these protests than during conventional oppositional actions; politicians, who organised protests (eg on February 26th, by the centre-right coalition and the independent trade union) did not attempt to take the lead, especially in the regions. All this gives a picture of truly popular protests.
While refraining from interfering with the meetings and protest marches, the militia on February 26th attempted to put pressure on the protest organisers in the regions by handing out reports on administrative violations after the events. Other than that, it appears that the local and central authorities are unable to respond to the massive protests against the Decree No 3, including crowded street speeches, numerous signatories of petitions (over 80 000), multiple collective and personal appeals to the authorities, and mass meetings.
That said, the authorities are unable to enforce the Decree No 3 as they do not have sufficient resources to trial some 400 000 people for non-compliance. In addition, the authorities do not have sufficient institutional capacity to exempt all those not liable for the tax from the mailing lists of the Tax authorities. The Belarusian Bar Association will provide free legal consultations on March 1st, 2017 for those wishing be exempt from the tax imposed by the Decree No 3, however, this would only slightly east the tension in society.
In addition, despite concerns expressed by some experts and the leader of the protest in Minsk on February 17th Mikola Statkevich, there were only scarce reports in the Russian media about the protests in Belarus.