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Amid growing public criticism of Interior Ministry, Belarusian authorities attempt to boost loyalty of security forces

June 05, 2017 12:45
Image: kp.by

Amid growth in controversial media reports involving power officials, the Belarusian leadership is publicly demonstrating its support for the power bloc to boost the loyalty of law enforcement. Meanwhile, the supremacy of the power bloc in the Belarusian politics has dysbalanced the power system and requires the president’s intervention. It is possible that a loyal, but odious and currently gaining political weight Interior Minister Shunevich may soon be removed from the office and assigned to a less influential post.

Last week, Speaker of the House of Representatives Vladimir Andreichenko awarded Interior Minister Igor Shunevich with the diploma for "activities aiming to ensure the rights and freedoms of citizens and a significant contribution to strengthening law and order".

On social networks and independent media, a deterioration in discipline in the law enforcement, impunity and lawlessness of the Interior Ministry have caused a major debate. Apparently, such a behaviour of the law enforcement was due to the significantly increased role of the power bloc in Belarus’ power system. Amid economic failures and falling popular ratings of state institutions, the power block was the force to contain the protest movement in Belarus.

President Lukashenka was prompted to criticise power officials in Orsha, when he learned that security officials broke into the house of the local executive head without informing him about it. In Orsha, actions of law enforcement officers have interfered with the established balance of powers in Belarus, whereas the presidential hierarchy headed by Lukashenka is the main power centre, immune from prosecution by the law enforcers. It is unlikely that the Interior Minister was unaware of the actions of his subordinates in Orsha, however, he did not disclose their intentions to the president and allowed the policemen to cross the implicit red line.

Meanwhile, the current role of the power bloc in maintaining social and political stability in society and its weight among other state institutions restricts the president from a more decisive action. President Lukashenka is forced to public demonstrations of support for the power bloc in order to retain its loyalty and readiness to mobilise to protect the Belarusian leadership in the case of social unrest.

The president is likely to attempt to relax the growing tension within the power bloc, to mitigate criticism from the population and to balance out the institutional weight of Minister Shunevich with the usual staff reshuffles.

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The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.

Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.

Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.

In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.