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.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.