New Presidential Administration Head Appointment: crisis in administration
Mr. Kobyakov was recalled from ambassadorial position in Russia to occupy the second highest-ranking position in Belarus, implying that loyalty crisis is deteriorating in the President Lukashenko’s surroundings. This appointment also suggests that decision-making in Belarus is becoming less formal, taking place outside formalized institutions, including the Presidential Administration.
On August 27th, President Lukashenko appointed Andrey Kobyakov as Head of the Presidential Administration.
This personnel decision marks, above all, the growing loyalty shortage in the Alexander Lukashenko’s surroundings. And the chaotic career of Andrey Kobiakov illustrates this deficiency and the subsequent personnel policy: Andrei Kobyakov was transferred from the Deputy Prime Minister post to the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration immediately after the presidential elections in 2010, and in November 2011 he was appointed as Ambassador of Belarus to Russia, and in addition to that in April 2012 he was appointed as Special Representative of Belarus in a number of integration organizations (CES, CIS, CSTO, etc.)
On the one hand, the return of Mr. Kobyakov to head the PA suggests that Alexander Lukashenko considers relations with Russia a priority number one and is not ready to repeat the political game of “rapprochement with the West” carried out in 2008-2010 under the leadership of the former PA head Mr. Makey. On the other hand, the “Russian” background of the new appointee, who was born in Russia, demonstrates a decline in the PA importance in the decision-making. As we have already noted, after 2011, President Lukashenko has been actively forming a new managerial institution, the so-called “Special forces’ Club”, made of loyal heads of security agencies.
Thus, Mr. Kobyakov’s appointment demonstrates that in the near future Belarus will refrain from resuming a political dialogue with the EU and the U.S. and from reforming political and economic systems in compliance with ‘Western’ requirements. However, it is likely that the authorities will try to step up cooperation with international financial funds. Mr. Kobyakov could play a positive role in this, given his professional experience: he was in charge of economic issues in the Government when the IMF Stand-by programme for Belarus started in 2009.
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.