Lukashenko played the role of a guarantor of justice
On February 24, President Lukashenko reprimanded and reproved high-ranking officials of the Belarusian State TV Company, the Government and the Presidential Administration for the falsification of the voting results in the finals of the national qualifying round of the “Eurovision” music contest. Following the decision of a special commission, a singer Lanskaya had to pass the first prize to a band Litesound.
A high-profile meeting with President Lukashenko on the eve of the EU Council meeting on 27 February was for the domestic consumption and aimed at two image-making purposes. Firstly, President Lukashenko appeared to the Belarusian population as the supreme defender of justice against corrupt officials. Also the President of Belarus sent a signal to the business community to be careful with their financial projects (the main sponsor of the contest was a well-known Belarusian manufacturer Shakutin).
Secondly, on the eve of potential introduction of new sanctions against Belarus by the EU, the government has strengthened its self-defense position. If on 27 February the EU Council votes for the new sanctions against Belarus, it will be used by the propaganda machine and interpreted as Brussels’ “ingratitude” to a positive “pro-European” signal of good will sent by Belarus. The whole story is also a response to the OSCE allegations and the allusion to the fact that ballot rigging is impossible in Belarus.
President Lukashenko has also used this scandal to mobilize his immediate circle. The inquiry in to the incident has been held involving the Head of the Presidential Administration Vladimir Makey and his Deputy, Alexander Radkov, Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Tozik, staff of the State Control Committee, the Investigation Committee and Department for combating crimes in the sphere of Information Technology of the Interior Ministry. As a result of the investigation, reprimands made to the Chairman of the Belarusian State TV Channel Davydko and Minister of Culture Latushko. Makey, Radkov and Tozik were reproved. The most emotional moments of the meeting were shown in the prime time.
By punishing officials for rigging the vote, the President made it clear that any initiative of the kind will be punishable if undertaken without prior coordination. Actions of Lukashenko also indicate that he will use any opportunity to reinforce the image of a “strong authority”.
The country's leadership has instructed the local authorities to raise minimum wages at enterprises by the end of 2019 to BYN 1,000, which would lead to an increase in the average wage in the economy as a whole to BYN 1 500. The pace of wage growth in 2017 is insufficient to ensure payroll at BYN 1000 by late 2017 without manipulating statistical indicators. In order to fulfil the president’s order, the government would have to increase budgetary expenditures on wages in healthcare and education, enterprises – to carry out further layoffs and expand the practice of taking loans to pay wages and restrict investment in modernisation of fixed assets. In 2010, the artificial increase in wages led to a threefold devaluation in 2011, an increase in the average salary to BYN 1500 will not match the capabilities of the economy and would lead to yet another devaluation.