Lukashenka in full control of power agencies in Belarus
The national security leadership in Belarus has no political personality and no aspirations to gain one. The Belarusian security forces have no corporate solidarity what so ever. However, there is a noticeable interdepartmental competition for Lukashenka’s attention, which manifests in the desire to fulfil his orders as promptly as possible and identify shortcomings in activity of other law enforcement agencies.
The harsh clampdown by the Belarusian law enforcement on the most recent protests has promoted talks about Lukashenka partially losing control over the security forces. Some analysts believe that the national security leaders have deliberately distorted information for the president in order to disrupt the Belarusian-European dialogue and prompt a political crisis to meet their own or Russia’s interests.
Since coming to power, Lukashenka has applied significant efforts to destroy alternative or potential centres of power within the state apparatus. In order to preclude a threat to his sole rule, he is constantly ensuring that the national security leaders remain loyal. For instance, he has fragmented the law enforcement and created two special services empowered, inter alia, to exercise control over the state administration. In addition, ensuring the internal security in the state is an often-duplicated function.
Currently, there are 16 government agencies in Belarus fully or partially involved in ensuring national security, law and order. By posting senior and middle security officers to unfamiliar regions, the president complicates the formation of influence groups at the regional and national levels.
The rivalry between the law enforcement agencies for Lukashenka’s attention (i.e. budgetary funding and personal career prospects for officers) is manifested, inter alia, through revealing the shortcomings in the activity of other security agencies. That said, the cases when security agencies were providing false information to the president were always associated with concealing own failures and never with political goals.
There is no question of manipulations or a conspiracy against the Belarusian president: there are neither conditions for it, nor officials, who would be ready to assume such a responsibility. Lukashenka has access to quality information about the state of affairs in Belarus. Lukashenka’s decisions are likely to base on his own opinion about a particular issue (except, perhaps, some foreign policy decisions). Power officials in Belarus tend to avoid political issues and choose to implement the president’s orders as is.
Amid budgetary cuts on social protection, the Belarusian public sector is experiencing a management crisis and a balance shift in the state resource redistribution system. The authorities are forced to revise their most unpopular decisions during the implementation due to the pressure from affected social groups. The state is unlikely to oppose to some civil society and opposition organisations in strengthening their role in society in order to retain touch with the population and to be able to respond to the most harsh criticism of state initiatives.
The Architecture and Construction Ministry has acknowledged that the decree No 585 on assistance to large and young families in building and buying housing was prematurely rescinded.
The authorities are often forced to revise their decisions on curtailing social assistance to different social groups during their implementation, without preliminary impact assessment and feedback from the population, so as they lead to the growth in social tension. Due to the centralised decision making, languishing state resources and the lack of public debate as a balancing instrument in issues related to social protection, the state administration is losing control of the population.
Perhaps, the compensatory mechanisms of the state apparatus lack the time to adjust to dwindling state resources for supporting the existing social model, even in a reduced form. The authorities have completely or partially paralysed operations of independent public institutions and representative bodies, through which they could monitor public moods and receive feedback from the population, such as local councils, the parliament, political parties and NGOs. Last year, under the pressure of the authorities, the last independent institute for measuring public sentiment, IISEPS, suspended operations.
President Lukashenka’s self-removal from the decision-making on current socio-economic issues, also could have affected the state apparatus’ operations. The president has always been very sensitive about adopting unpopular decisions which could lower his popular support, hence demanded a careful preliminary assessment of such decisions. However, recently, especially after the introduction of the tax on social dependants, the president has mainly focused on the foreign policy agenda.
Hence, a lacuna has formed in the state decision-making after the president reduced participation in the current socio-economic policy formation, which leads to an increase in manifestations of dysfunction in the public administration.