MIA reform designed to protect the President’s entourage
Our previous assumptions have been confirmed: the Interior Ministry’s main purpose of reform, hidden from the public, is to distance itself from curbing organized crime and corruption. This will ensure greater safety for the Belarusian management and business elites and will increase their dependence on President Lukashenko.
On September 14th, “Platforma”, a Belarusian human rights NGO, reported that the ongoing MIA reform will reorganize the Ministry’s Main Department for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption.
Human rights defenders reported that Interior Minister Shunevich signed an order to downsize the Ministry’s Main Department for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption staff and to delegate the ordinary units of the criminal police the authority to combat organized crime. This information has not yet been officially confirmed.
However, this step was anticipated and fits into the logic of the reform of the law enforcement agencies, a process that started in 2011. There are two major trends in the President’s inner circle: concentrating anti-corruption investigative work under Lukashenko’s auspices and weakening the MIA combat units management.
Firstly, this is meant to strengthen the President’s role as the center for harmonizing the Belarusian elite’s interests. Secondly, it reduces the risks for the country’s leadership, because mobile and disciplined combat units of the Interior Ministry could become a threat to the regime, in particular, if there was not enough funding from the government.
The Ministry’s Main Department for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption traced and detained suspects in the Minsk metro terrorist attack on April 11th, 2011. In spite of this, by the end of 2011, the curator of this operation, Deputy Minister of Interior and former head of the Main Department for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption Colonel Pekarsky was fired under the humiliating pretext of “discrediting the title”. Another former Deputy Minister Mr. Poluden, who commanded the public security police forces during meetings’ dispersal, was also arrested in December 2011 on corruption charges. Regardless of their guilt, the authorities are interested in reducing these officials’ influence in the Interior Ministry, and subordinated military police units (their role increased after the mass arrests in December 2010).
The fact that this information leaked from a human rights NGO demonstrates that MIA officials are trying to ‘protest’ against the ongoing reform, but their protest is poorly organized and does not have enough influence to provoke a commensurate reaction. Otherwise, the information would have appeared in other media, in the best case in Russia. In any case, the fact that security forces went public implies that the Interior Ministry has exhausted all non-public instruments to influence the situation and most likely will not be able to withstand the “reformers” from the President’s entourage.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.