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.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.