Lukashenko appears to broaden nomenclature’s powers

April 22, 2016 18:42

With reduced public administration efficiency and fewer available resources to support the economic policy, president Lukashenko has no choice but to use new staff management methods. Lukashenko is not bringing the socio-political system into question, but has somewhat broadened the nomenclature’s powers. Ahead of the 2015 presidential campaign, Lukashenko needs to find additional ways to consolidate and mobilize public officials, given he has fewer resources to buy their loyalty with pay rises and social benefits.

On December 10th, the president held a national meeting at Minsk’s Independence Palace. Attended by 250 public officials from the Presidential Administration, Government, Parliament, various ministries, and other executives, including regional heads, the meeting addressed challenges in the construction industry and the government’s staffing policy. During the meeting, president Lukashenko did not question the centralized governmental system but sought to bolster public officials’ sense of responsibility by increasing their participation in the decision-making process.

Today president Lukashenko is the only politician who determines Belarus’ state policy. He has repeatedly said that all other members of the power system were managers whose task was to implement decisions taken by the President. However, in the face of shrinking external subsidies, this centralized public management system can no longer cope with managing the economy.

The president constantly reshuffles his top-managers and security officials, which brings some benefits and reduces the risks of nomenclature coup. However, these measures fail to improve public administration’s efficiency.

Failed modernization in the woodworking industry is probably the most obvious example of Lukashenko’s limited influence on his executives. Modernization in the woodworking industry started back in 2007, its deadlines were shifted many times and in 2013, directors were still working to fix the problems.

The president’s personnel policy has resulted in staff shortages, both at top- and mid-level management. On December 10th, Presidential Administration Head Andrei Kobyakov said “the Deputy Economy Minister’s chair has been vacant for nearly two years, while there are potential candidates. For a long time, such positions as Deputy Ministers of Architecture and Construction, Sports and Tourism, Director of the Department for control and supervision in construction at the State Committee for Standardization have been vacant”.

President Lukashenko seeks to preserve the existing socio-political system, and has broadened the nomenclature’s powers in decision-making only pro forma. On a larger scale, he is neither interested in changing the government’s institutional design, nor in allowing the nomenclature to create formal institutions for promoting their interests.

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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.