Belarusian leadership plans to shuffle off weak links in local administrations before local elections
The Belarusian authorities have prompted the local authorities to respond more actively to citizens’ appeals in order to relax tension in society and to monitor public sentiments in the view of the upcoming local election campaign. In addition, the authorities test coordination and popular ratings of the local administrations in order to identify the weakest links. The presidential administration could replace some local administration heads in order to improve controllability.
Last week, Head of the Presidential Administration Natalia Kochanova held a reception of citizens in Verkhnedvinsk, Vitebsk region.
Local authorities are often reluctant to deal with citizens' appeals and do not seek ways to establish additional contacts with the electorate. In many cases, local administrations have visiting hours during inconvenient working hours, which certainly reduces appeals to local officials, meanwhile increasing appeals to the presidential administration. In addition to the obvious newsmaking effect, occasional visits by the presidential administration head to the regions should discipline and prompt the local authorities to work with local residents.
Unlike local heads of administration, the presidential administration is more interested in boosting the work with appeals at the local level. The Belarusian leadership uses the local authorities as a filter and somewhat shuffles off the discontent with socio-economic policies onto local officials. Citizens' appeals are among the main mechanisms in the Belarusian government system for receiving feedback from the population amidst almost complete paralysis of the local electoral bodies (local councils) and inaction of local deputies.
Apparently, the main task of the authorities in dealing with appeals is to ensure a "therapeutic" effect on public sentiment amid languishing state resources. That said, as a result of protest actions in February-March this year, local officials in some regions held round-table discussions with the local opposition.
Overall, the presidential administration hopes to discipline and strengthen the local authorities before the local election campaign and in the case of failures in the work of some local administration heads, to replace them.
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.