Lukashenko’s domestic legitimacy degraded
On 19 May Minsk hosted Summits of the Heads of Governments of the CIS, of the EurAsEC and of the Customs Union simultaneously. Belarus organized such well-represented events for the first time during the fourth Presidency of Alexander Lukashenko.
Summits of the Heads of Governments of the CIS and of the EurAsEC countries held in Minsk on 19 May have substantially increased the international legitimacy of the Belarusian government however the outcome of the bilateral Belarus-Russian meetings dramatically weakened the domestic legitimacy of President Lukashenko.
The domestic legitimacy of the President Lukashenko suffered due to the inconsistency between the Summit’s expectations and its outcomes. On 16 May Alexander Lukashenko publicly spoke about the high probability of the allocation of about $ 6 billion loan for Belarus by Russia in 2011 however the Summit showed he could count on about $ 1.2 billion in two separate tranches of $ 800 million and $ 400 million each with a large time gap between them and on the conditions of the implementation of a series of economic reforms.
Moreover, a late night tet-a-tet meeting with Vladimir Putin passed without a final news conference that would allow Lukashenko to appear before the media as the Head of state who solved the "big issue".
The assumption about the weakening of the domestic legitimacy of Lukashenko is supported by the surprise announcement of the Chairman of the Belarusian Liberal Democratic Party S. Gaidukevich, who on 21 May accused the government of failing to control the situation at the currency market and urged for its resignation.
Nevertheless the Summits of the EurAsEC, CIS, and the Customs Union in Minsk made an important contribution to the strengthening of the external legitimacy of the Belarusian government in the post-Soviet space. The Prime Minister of Belarus Mikhail Myasnikovich held several bilateral meetings and chaired the plenary meeting of the Heads of Governments. All in all, following the unsuccessful negotiations with the Russian Prime Minister Putin, the President Lukashenko withdrew from the information space, while M. Myasnikovich became a major newsmaker regarding issues related to loans for Belarus.
A meeting of the Crisis Fund of the Council of the EurAsEC, set to adopt a formal decision on the stabilization loan for Belarus amounting to $ 3 billion with annual tranches of $ 1 billion each during 2011-2013, will be held on 4 June in Moscow. Obviously, the schedule of transfers will be linked to the implementation by Belarus of the conditions agreed between Myasnikovich and Kudrin.
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.