Lukashenko launched a "survival" parliamentary race
On the one hand, Lukashenko’s statement about the desired quota of continuity in the new parliament (20-25%) is an informal launch of the election campaign for the current MPs. On the other, it could be regarded as a signal to the nomenclature and the West to discuss the composition of the remaining 75-80% of the future MPs.
On 10 February President Lukashenko met with Chairman of the House of Representatives Vladimir Andreichenko and said that it would be desirable to maintain only 20-25% of the Deputies in the new Parliament and advised the Deputies to start working actively on preparing for the elections in the regions.
Inside the country Lukashenko’s statement will be interpreted as the launch of the election campaign for the most ambitious Deputies. Parliamentarians received an impetus to act to realize the possibility of being re-elected for another term and to get into the presidential quota. However, the size of the informal quota is the smallest in the last three election campaigns. Continuity of the Parliament of the 2nd convocation as compared with the first was 32% (2000 elections), the 3rd convocation as compared with the 2nd provided for 42% (2004), and the 4th to the 3rd was 27% (2008).
Therefore the Lukashenko’s statement should be regarded as a survival race by the parliamentarians. His statement speaks rather in favour of disregard by the President of the Deputies, than showing confidence in them.
On 10 February Lukashenko appeared in the prime time on TV and in his usual style of a “macho man”, he addressed his interlocutors using polite and impolite forms of ‘you’ interchangeably, as well, he used extremely vague phrases as “I think”, “I believe” and “maybe you should”. As a rule Lukashenko speaks to reporters in such a frivolous manner.
Nevertheless, during the meeting he outlined to the MPs the terms for obtaining state support for re-election. Namely, he said that the Presidential Administration expects MPs to support the state social and economic policy in the regions and to keep up hopes of the population that the living standards growth will be maintained. These conditions were entirely predictable and have been previously voiced by the president to all potential domestic political partners.
It is likely that these statements by Lukashenko came in response to the visit of a representative of the European External Action Service Mr. Wiegand to Minsk on February 8-10. The official purpose of the visit was to establish a dialogue on the modernization of the Republic of Belarus. The main details and results of the visit have not yet been disclosed however the content and style of the statements made by Lukashenko during his meeting with Andreichenko allow for assumptions that the Administration considered the resumption of a dialogue as an option. First of all, the announced quota of 20-25% speaks in this favour.
Such a reduction of the quota indicates the willingness of the authorities to use the parliamentary campaign in autumn 2012 as a platform for the resumption of a political dialogue with the West, similar to the parliamentary elections in 2008. Those MPs that will not get to the new Parliament will be involuntary “victims” of the resumption of the dialogue, again similar to the 2008 elections.
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.