Belarusian President reinforces executive branch before elections
Last week, President Lukashenka relieved Aleksander Mezhuev of his duties as the Security Council Secretary “in connection with difficult family circumstances”. In addition, the president has reshuffled staff in the Belarusian army, some ministries and in the regions, inter alia, replaced some deputy chairmen at regional executive committees and chairmen at district executive committees. Ahead of the presidential campaign, President Lukashenka is attempting to strengthen the weakest, in his opinion, links in the executive branch, which will be responsible for organizing and conducting the electoral campaign. In addition, the Belarusian government has focused on keeping the army on high combat alert in the face of possible political tension in the country. Staff changes are also likely in the power structures before the election date is announced.
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.