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 regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.