Crisis of President Lukashenko’s legitimacy put on hold
On 27 May President Lukashenko held a meeting to discuss the current situation on the consumer and foreign exchange markets. The meeting was attended by the top officials of the country: representatives of the Government, the National Bank, the Presidential Administration, the management of the largest state-owned banks.
The Belarusian political elite are waiting for the President’s actions to overcome the financial crisis.
President Lukashenko senses that his domestic legitimacy is in danger and has to react within the frameworks of the failed talks with Russian leaders on 19 May and Kazakhstan on 24-26 May. The absence of positive information regarding the outcomes of these negotiations, indeed, reduces the credibility of the Head of State. Moreover, a number of statements made last week by Russian Prime Minister Putin and Finance Minister Kudrin concerning the conditions of issuing a stabilization loan to Belarus present the situation as if Russia is dictating to the Belarusian leadership what to do to obtain the credit and to overcome the crisis.
Following these media reports, Lukashenko had to justify himself vis-?-vis his subordinates and to convince them that he still controlled the economic situation and protected the interests of the Belarusian management. During the meeting the Belarusian President has repeatedly said that Belarus would not start the “collapsing” sale of assets.
The meeting was the first public statement by Lukashenko after the Summit held in Minsk on 19 May. Its emotional intensity proves the political stakes are high, at least until the next meeting of the Board of the Anti-Crisis Fund of the Eurasian Economic Community on 4 June, meant to decide on the allocation of the first transfer for Belarus. It is fairly safe to assume that the Belarusian elite will continue keeping the pause until that date.
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.
In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.
The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.
Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.