New Lukashenko appointments: change in personnel, no change in direction
Last week, President Lukashenko appointed several people who have made their careers under his rule, suggesting that the authorities will continue with their authoritarian rule, but gradually stop relying on their Soviet past. The new appointments have confirmed the overall trend in how the power is distributed within the ruling Belarusian elite. The state’s relations with the opposition and the civil society will remain hostile.
Last week, Alexander Lukashenko made several appointments in his top brace. Yuri Senko was appointed State Customs Committee Chairman (replacing Aleksander Shpilevsky, who headed the SCC for years). Andrei Shorets is to replace Nikolay Ladutsko as the Minsk City Executive Committee Chairman. Ivan Golovaty was appointed as Belaruskalij CEO (replacing Kiriyenko). In addition, Vladimir Amarin became the new Finance Minister (Anrei Kharkovets resigned in July 2014).
All the appointees have made their careers during Lukashenko’s rule. Recently, for natural reasons, the number of top managers who made their careers after the Soviet Union collapse has increased. Despite the stylistic and structural similarity of administrative practices in Belarus after 1992 and in the Byelorussian SSR, the "new" managers are mostly indifferent to the communist ideology and have a different set of values. Nevertheless, that does not mean they value a less authoritarian governance model.
Those appointed last week will be responsible for managing financial flows. Most often, such appointments in Belarus are the result of the backstage fights among influence groups. The new appointees do not belong to long-established influential groups, which may indicate a compromise or redistribution of power in influence groups.
All the newly appointed officials come from within the system, thus they would be interested in maintaining its basic parameters, including the authoritarian rule and domination of the state in all spheres of life. No changes should be anticipated in this regard.
In addition, the authorities’ actions against civil society representatives mean that the state will continue to exclude civil society and the opposition from public life. The deportation of human rights activist Yelena Tonkacheva and the arrest of a "National Referendum" activist, Vladislav Koshelev, confirm this trend.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.