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 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.