Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs arrested on corruption charges
The ongoing in 2011 law enforcement agencies reform significantly weakens the role of the Ministry of Interior vis-?-vis the Investigative Committee. The arrest of Mr. Poluden downgrades the status the Interior Ministry and puts the new staff of the Investigative Committee through loyalty to President Lukashenko tests.
On 12 December media reported about the arrest of Deputy Minister of Interior of Belarus Mr. Poluden. On 16 December he was charged with abuse of power and official authority under Part 3 of Article 424 of the Criminal Code, which carries a sentence up to 10 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property.
There are two main interpretations of the arrest of Mr. Poluden: 1) the eldest son of President Lukashenko Victor tries to subdue the Interior Ministry and 2) the arrest of the Deputy Interior Minister is a continuation of the departmental war between the KGB and the MIA. Both interpretations do not take into account a fundamentally new situation in the security agencies of Belarus as of 2012 and are short on supporting evidence (both interpretations were disseminated via website BelarusPartisan.org, which quoted anonymous sources in the law enforcement bodies).
It is very likely that conspiracy has nothing to do with it and there are purely political reasons behind it. The country’s leadership needs to redistribute powers among the law enforcement bodies in favour of the Investigative Committee. In 2012 this new body will take over the investigation, which will make the Interior Ministry significantly weaker (the KGB will still be in charge of investigation of causes related to national security).
The authorities decided to consolidate the new “degraded” status of the MIA by arresting a high-ranking corrupt official of the Ministry. The charges of abuse of power seem quite plausible. According to unofficial reports, Mr. Poluden has not passed a bribe test, organized for him.
The arrest of Mr. Poluden also meant to come out as a warning. All Interior Ministry employees, who may have complained about the weakening role of the authority of the Ministry, received an unambiguous message. The main recipient of the message was clearly a Minister of Interior Kuleshov, who was at the hospital during the arrest and refused to comment on the situation.
Apart from improving its positions among the law enforcement agencies, the investigation of corruption cases against top-ranking MIA officials will be a kind of initiation for the new staff of the Investigative Committee, which is based primarily on the personnel of the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Interior Ministry. Finally, it is likely that ex-colleagues of Mr. Poluden in the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be investigating his case, which is also meant to test their loyalty to the main supervisor of the Investigative Committee, President Lukashenko.
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.