Belarusian authorities have concerns about loyalty of law enforcement
The pension reform and decree No 3 have manifested the public administration’s dysfunction in Belarus, its inability to foresee the consequences of decisions taken. Unjustified legislative innovations threaten to destabilize the political situation in the country; they have already radicalised a significant part of the previously apolitical population and led to social protests, which could transform into political ones.
Amid growth in social tension and the crisis in Russo-Belarusian relations, the Belarusian authorities have concerns about the continued loyalty of the security forces. For instance, Lukashenka ordered to revise the length of service required for the labour pension by including military and equivalent service. It is worth recalling that the Belarusian security forces became victims of the pension reform, which excluded military or special service from the length of service when calculating labour pensions.
Unexpected mass protests against decree No 3 have pushed the frankly unfair pension reform to the background. The reform, where it concerned the length of service for labour pensions, has had a negative impact on practically all citizens, including the power block. So far, the population is mainly preoccupied protesting against decree No 3. However, the situation may change in the near future, when pensions would be awarded by the new rules. The predatory nature of the pension reform is fraught not merely with protests, but with social upheaval.
Potential protests against the pension reform would challenge the loyalty of the law enforcement, which also fallen a victim to arbitrary rule. Amid limited financial resources, the authorities are likely to seek support from the security forces, primarily, by preventing their living standard from deteriorating. Amid falling overall incomes and reducing social protection, the security forces would have to retain their relatively privileged status against the bulk of the population to remain loyal.
Amid deteriorating relations with Russia, massive and broad protests against decree No 3 make the loyalty of the power block particularly critical for preserving the existing political system. The economic situation in Belarus does not allow for the growth in the well-being of the power officials. However, the political leadership is likely to attempt to prevent its fall. In addition, it would eliminate the factors, which could cause justified and massive dissatisfaction in the power structures. That said, the authorities are likely to provide them additional benefits and privileges, which do not require additional budgetary expenditures, such as priority in university admission, allocating land for housing construction, improving access to quality health care, and the like.
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.