Authorities gear up for election campaign

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April 22, 2016 18:40

Lukashenko released Colonel-General Leonid Maltsev (he was the State Secretary of the Security Council) from office and appointed him as State Border Committee Chairman.

Lukashenko is gearing up for the 2015 presidential campaign with a staff reshuffle. Whoever occupies the position of the Security Council State Secretary will determine the scenario for the upcoming presidential election. Maltsev’s appointment as the Border Committee Chairman should improve Lukashenko’s control over this body.

Former Secretary of the Security Council Leonid Maltsev was appointed to his position one year before the presidential election - in December 2009. He was in charge of organizing and conducting Lukashenko’s election campaign.

The conditions in which the next presidential election will be held may be much less favourable for Lukashenko. The growing economic crisis might seriously undermine the president’s approval rating. In addition, the agreement on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union is scheduled for signature on the eve of elections. Further integration with Russia threatens Lukashenko’s position and might once again complicate Russo-Belarusian relations. In 2010, Russia carried out a media-attack on president Lukashenko and forced him to sign a package of integration treaties in exchange for the Kremlin’s support.

Lukashenko’s circle of loyal officials to whom he could entrust the State Security Council has dwindled. The Secretary of State will be responsible for organizing the presidential elections, including guarantees of the loyalty of the army and the law enforcement.

Viktor Sheiman and Viktor Lukashenko are considered the most likely candidates to fill this position. In October 2010 Lukashenko brought Sheiman back from exile. Sheiman, Lukashenko’s former ‘eminence grise’ has his own loyal team from many years ago. As the role of the law enforcement bodies strengthens in Belarusian politics, and the Kremlin’s pressure increases, Lukashenko might need to expand Sheiman’s powers as ‘security forces’ supervisor’. Another highly suitable candidate to fill this position is Lukashenko’s eldest son, Viktor Lukashenko.

In turn, Maltsev’s appointment as Border Committee Chairman could be linked with Lukashenko’s need to have greater control over this body in connection with the World Hockey Championship in 2014. Recently, the Border Committee has regularly featured in the news for unpleasant reasons. In 2012 the Lithuanian border guards reported a 60% increase in trespassers compared with 2011 – most of them from Belarus. After Igor Rachkovsky’s dismissal following the ‘teddy bear drop’ in 2012, the Border Committee experienced increased problems with management.

President Lukashenko started staff reshuffles in the security forces in connection with the upcoming election campaign in 2015. Staff reshuffles in other security agencies should also be anticipated.

Depending on the circumstances, the presidential elections might be held ahead of schedule.

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Belarusian authorities step up pressure on opposition before street protests
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Image: "Новы Час"

During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.

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