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.
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.