Belarusian leadership plans to shuffle off weak links in local administrations before local elections

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June 26, 2017 11:15

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.

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According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.

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