Lukashenko’s family strengthen control over the Belarusian ruling elite

April 22, 2016 18:10

On May 11, President Lukashenko appointed Colonel Igor Shunevich to the post of Minister of Internal Affairs previously occupied by Anatoli Kuleshov.

It was expected that Igor Shunevich could be reassigned from his position of Deputy Minister to the post of Minister since the former Minister of the Internal affairs Anatoli Kuleshov had virtually excluded himself from managing the Ministry.

Kuleshov has been rumoured to be ill, but this was obviously not a cause for his dismissal. In reality, the former minister had failed to show himself as an independent manager. He dutifully performed orders of the head of the state, including brutal crackdown on street protests in 2010 and 2011. In addition, Kuleshov failed to present the requested draft reform of the Ministry of Interior.

The appointment of Colonel Sinyavsky the Minister should be regarded as a signal that Lukashenko’s immediate environment find it necessary to eliminate from the Interior Ministry those managers who had been employed under Naumov’s governance and who are not loyal enough to Lukashenko’s family. That explains why the former officer of the Presidential Security Service Sinyavsky had headed the Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Shunevich proved his loyalty to the President by making a career in a Chief Directorate of Counter-intelligence Support to law enforcement and regulatory authorities on fight against corruption and organised crime.

It has already been mentioned that the fact when a former official of State Security Committee of Belarus controls the Ministry of Internal Affairs should be viewed as a growth of influence of the so-called Viktor Lukashenko’s group over the Belarusian law enforcement agencies. (Shunevich began his career in the Interior Ministry, and in 2007-2012 worked in the KGB). It can be stated that the eldest son and assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Viktor Lukashenko has a significant impact on the management of the following security services:

  • The Operative-Analytical Centre (surveillance in IT sphere; investment consultancy service at least in the telecommunication sphere)

  • The State Security Committee of Belarus (counter-intelligence, anti-terrorism and the protection of public order)

  • Financial Investigations Department of the State Control Committee(financial intelligence)

  • The Investigation Committee (together with the KGB, it has the exclusive right to conduct a preliminary investigation under the Criminal Code)

If to speak about Viktor Lukashenko’s influence, it should be reminded that he has an informal friendly relationship with the management of these structures. Most of the chiefs of the law enforcement agencies were granted their posts due to Viktor’s patronage. Firstly, we should name the head of the KGB Vladimir Zaitsev and the head of the Investigation Committee Vladimir Vakulchik. However, currently there is no real evidence of Viktor Lukashenko’s plans to succeed his father as president.

The current rotation of personnel could be regarded simply as strengthening of the position of Lukashenko’s family. Viktor Lukashenko’s group do not enjoy support and trust within the Belarusian ruling circles and has not yet demonstrated its ability to make agreements.

Therefore, the most likely political outcome of personnel rotation would be applying a repression mechanism to the resolution of management, property and political conflicts within the Belarusian elites.

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Belarusian authorities could give way to potent opposition in local councils
June 19, 2017 12:13

The Belarusian authorities could to step up the opposition representation in local councils, should party members demonstrate potency. The Belarusian leadership is unlikely to have the resources to ensure 100 percent pro-government candidates in the local elections. The authorities have exhausted the grassroot support and have no funds to pay for the loyalty.

The Belarusian Central Election Commission has proposed to hold the elections to the local Councils of Deputies on February 18th, 2018.

The president has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the local councils in the power system and the state machine always tried to ensure the necessary local election results. Candidates have been decreasing in number with each elections and the authorities dealt with that by reducing the deputy corps. That said, during the rule of President Lukashenka, his electoral base has changed substantially. Over the past decade, most Belarusians have moved to cities and lost their local roots. The rural population is ready to support the president, but rural residents are constantly decreasing in number.

The Belarusian leadership is likely to permit broad participation in the election campaign and an increase in alternative representatives in the local councils. However, the opposition would have to boost its activity, so as so far it has been passive in defending its interests. In addition, the authorities, while determining the date for the local elections, have taken into account the fact that the opposition is usually the least active in the winter time.

Overall, both, the opposition and the local authorities have exhausted their grassroot support, however new local leaders may still come on political stage, although the party opposition has not yet shown sufficient aspirations.