Belarusian president reshuffles staff to strengthen weak links in regional bureaucracy
Last Friday, President Lukashenka appointed new officials and made several statements. The president uses staff reshuffles to ease tension in the most troubled regions and government agencies. For instance, following several controversies involving regional branches of the law enforcement agencies, the president replaced two regional heads of the Interior Ministry departments in Vitebsk and Brest, which could also be an attempt to strengthen local security forces in the fight against unauthorised protest activity. In addition, the president replaced leaders in eight districts, six of which in the Vitebsk region, in order to relax tension in society and reduce people’s complaints about failed regional economic and social policies. Lukashenka also appointed the new executive head in the biggest transport hub, Orsha, where social protests against the decree on social dependants held in February-March 2017 gathered most participants. The president is using staff reshuffle in order to reset the executive’s failures in socio-economic development in the regions, where people were the most discontent with the authorities.
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.