Belarusian authorities anticipate boosting popular support through fight against corruption and economic crimes
Amid the lack of funds to buy the loyalty of voters, the Belarusian authorities have once again bolstered the anti-corruption campaign. Amid falling incomes, the authorities aim to use high-profile anti-corruption cases against public officials and nationalisation of large businesses to step up president’s popular ratings. In addition, the president has in mind imposing discipline on public officials ahead of the presidential campaign.
Last week, the Supreme Court continued hearings on the corruption case in Belkoopsoyz.
In recent months, the authorities have stepped up their fight against corruption among public officials and economic crimes by big business. Apart from low and mid-level officials, high-ranking officials also fall under corruption charges.
State Control Committee Chairman Anfimov said, that Motovelo plant would be nationalised by the Minsk City Executive Committee. The owners and top managers of the plant have been detained by the KGB offices on charges of capital and equipment withdrawal. State Control Committee Chairman Anfimov emphasized that with their actions the owners and top managers of the plant have harmed public interest: "This is an example of how investors should not work and that the government should control the privatisation process. You see what happened to the privatized enterprise. In fact, we almost have lost one of the country’s leading brands”.
In 2007, Austrian ATEC Holding, owned by brothers Muravyov’s and their Russian partners bought the plant. After visiting the plant in September 2013, President Lukashenka demanded to implement Motovelo’s development plans immediately. Back then, Minsk city executive committee Chairman Nikolai Ladutko said that the planned results would be achieved only by 2017. Interestingly, Alexander Muravyov ranks 36th in the top 200 successful and influential businessmen in Belarus.
Another recent high-profile case against top level public official concerned former Deputy Minister of Forestry Lisitsa, who was charged with illegal acquisition of land, illegal construction and privatization of two houses, as well as misuse of budgetary funds. In addition, he was accused of discrediting the state. On June 18th, Lisitsa was sentenced to 5 years in prison and property arrest.
Lisitsa was appointed Deputy Minister in September 2010, following a thorough background check by the Prosecutor General’s Office, the KGB, the Interior Ministry and the State Control Committee. In fact, his career has been developing quite rapidly – he started as Director of Starobinsk Forestry and quickly became the Deputy Minister. The authorities launched an investigation against him in early 2014, which most likely was related to the events in Ukraine. Back then, he was released of his duties for “the failure to comply with restrictions on public service”.
As elections are drawing closer, the authorities may boost their anti-corruption rhetoric in order to improve their ratings and strengthen discipline in the state apparatus.
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.