Belarusian president resumes populist rhetoric and starts mobilising public sector for local election campaign
President Lukashenka has resumed field trips to mobilise officials in anticipation of the autumn-winter political campaign. In addition, the president is attempting to boost ratings of public institutions through fuelling pay rise expectations in the regions. That said, the authorities have already fulfilled their promise of a pay rise in the key city, Minsk, to relax protest tension.
The president is back in the spotlight of the media with populist talks and focus on the economic activity due to a series of field trips and visits to state-run and successful private companies. Apparently, the authorities are expecting the economic recovery in rural areas and enhanced ratings of public institutions due to additional cash injections.
In addition, the president has promised to raise wages to BYN 1,500 throughout 2018 by raising the income of low-paid workers. Probably, President Lukashenka was prompted to respond to the growing economic inequality in society and the widening gap between high- and low-paid workers, especially in the regions in comparison with Minsk. Earlier, the president attempted to mobilise the leadership in three regions, so as not to derail the harvesting campaign.
That said, the authorities raised people’s wages to USD 500 twice - during the 2010 presidential and the 2012 parliamentary elections after the wave of silent protests in 2011. Not just once the state apparatus and security forces were able to ensure the necessary official results of elections and cope with protests. Apparently, the president’s major task is to boost the ratings of public institutions during political mobilization in society for electoral campaigns.
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.