President Lukashenka may agree to compromise regarding new Prime Minister
President Lukashenka has not yet approved the new government, as the final decision on Belarus’ development strategy in the next five years has not been taken. The new Prime Minister will be either a supporter of market reforms, or a conservator of the existing socio-economic model. However, the president may approve a composition of the government, which is led by the Prime Minister, who has no explicit position about the future of the Belarusian economy.
Last week, at a meeting dedicated to the national security system, President Lukashenka requested those who want to work in the government to prove their worth.
Last month, the Belarusian Government resigned in the view of the newly elected president, however, until now the new Cabinet has not been formed, and President Lukashenka was quite ambiguous about the future Council of Ministers. Until the decision is made, Kobyakov-led Government is in charge. It is worth noting that analysts assessed the former Government as a transitional anti-crisis "government of bankers" with the main task to preserve macroeconomic stability before and during the presidential campaign.
Interestingly, right after the election the president was inclined to extend the Cabinet’s mandate. At a conference on topical development issues of Belarus he said, “The government and other power bodies for the next five years have been formed before the presidential election. As I said, the second presidential elections have been held this way. People need to know who will be working after the elections, if this president is elected”.
However, after the inauguration, the president has changed his rhetoric and has introduced some competitiveness among potential members of the new cabinet. Perhaps, this came as a result of internal negotiations between technocrats/free-market supporters and conservatives supporting preservation of the current economic policies. For instance, during the recent meeting on national security issues, the president emphasised, “I would not want to sign the appointments formally and mechanically”.
It is a tough choice for Lukashenka, who has quite a variety of candidates for the Prime Minister’s post – from market reforms supporters to micromanagers. Simultaneously, former Prime Minister and now acting head of the government Kobyakov is the best candidate, and chances are high that he will keep his post. Kobiakov has an extensive managerial experience in various state institutions, and indifferent position regarding the existing socio-economic model and the need for reforms. In fact, Kobyakov is the Prime Minister who could head the government of marketers, as well as micromanagers. Moreover, the outgoing government has received positive feedback from both, Belarusian economists and international financial institutions for its market-oriented efforts to preserve macroeconomic stability.
Analysts point out that depending on who will be appointed to lead the Government, will reflect Lukashenka’s development plans for the next five years. The choice of the Prime Minister will send a signal to society and international financial institutions regarding the Belarusian authorities’ commitments to economic reforms.
Lukashenka is likely to take a decision in nobody’s favour and appoint the government somewhat oriented on economic transformations without structural reforms.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.