Another blow to Prime Minister Myasnikovich
On October 19, the website “Belaruspartisan” published information from an anonymous source from the Presidential Administration which brings one to conclude that President Lukashenko heavily criticized Myasnikovich in his presence.
This information leak about the sharp criticism of the Prime Minister by the President only confirms that the former is assessed by the latter as “a lame duck”. However, Lukashenko is interested in connecting the resignation of the Prime Minister with a good reason, such as potential complications on the foreign exchange market. The anonymous material seems to be very realistic. On behalf of President Lukashenko, in an aggressive manner, Myasnikovich is criticized for inappropriate performance of construction works in the town of Gorky before the annual Dazhynki celebration.
“How can such a bungling of the builders be explained? First, the tiles in the pavement got broken, now I am told that mould appeared in the newly built hall of residence. We spent almost 3 million dollars on making improvements in Gorky and now the fungus is eating it all up? Every week you were reporting how improvement works proceeded, so where is the result? The guests have left and to hell with everything? Go to Gorky at once. If you can’t build properly, then lick the mould off with the governor using your tongues and lay the tiles anew. I have the impression that the government decided to bugger off. I guess that I will have to help you and then you will march at Bangalor square with our fifth column. You must inform me by the end of the week about the reasons for this bungling at the construction sites. All those who are guilty must be severely punished”.
The most remarkable thing in this story is the very fact that information has been leaked to independent media about a scandalous conversation between the president and the Prime Minister, namely such a detailed quotation. Even if the quotation is not authentic, the fact that it became public shows that in Lukashenko’s milieu there is a group that wants Myasnikovich to resign. By doing so, they diminish his influence and disgrace him. It is also worth noting that during 2012, Myasnikovich’s cabinet has been consistently weakened when ministers were appointed to other posts.
Nevertheless, to fire Myasnikovich, Lukashenko needs a more reasonable cause connected with the government’s inability to fulfill their obligations. Most likely, the cause will be failure to meet forecast indicators of economic growth, in particular, potential problems with the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble. Thus, at a public meeting on October 15, Lukashenko announced that he was satisfied with positive improvement of the situation on the foreign exchange market and required the Prime Minister to consolidate this success.
The paradox of the situation with the highly probable resignation of Myasnikovich is that the president is objectively interested in the (short-term) destabilization of the economy, since it would allow him to shift responsibility and blame the government for further problems as well as to finish reshuffling the cabinet. At the same time, Lukashenko is tied by his promise to raise the average monthly wages in the country to USD 500 by the end of the year, which gives Myasnikovich time to restore his influence.
The Belarusian authorities could to step up the opposition representation in local councils, should party members demonstrate potency. The Belarusian leadership is unlikely to have the resources to ensure 100 percent pro-government candidates in the local elections. The authorities have exhausted the grassroot support and have no funds to pay for the loyalty.
The Belarusian Central Election Commission has proposed to hold the elections to the local Councils of Deputies on February 18th, 2018.
The president has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the local councils in the power system and the state machine always tried to ensure the necessary local election results. Candidates have been decreasing in number with each elections and the authorities dealt with that by reducing the deputy corps. That said, during the rule of President Lukashenka, his electoral base has changed substantially. Over the past decade, most Belarusians have moved to cities and lost their local roots. The rural population is ready to support the president, but rural residents are constantly decreasing in number.
The Belarusian leadership is likely to permit broad participation in the election campaign and an increase in alternative representatives in the local councils. However, the opposition would have to boost its activity, so as so far it has been passive in defending its interests. In addition, the authorities, while determining the date for the local elections, have taken into account the fact that the opposition is usually the least active in the winter time.
Overall, both, the opposition and the local authorities have exhausted their grassroot support, however new local leaders may still come on political stage, although the party opposition has not yet shown sufficient aspirations.