President Lukashenko is after nomenclature’s support
President Lukashenko will use the local elections to strengthen the nomenclature’s loyalty by giving them hope for greater influence in politics. The issue of creating the ‘Party of Power’ in Belarus has been raised from time to time, most often ahead of the national election campaigns. However, having such a party would be at odds with the current cult-of-personality system, which could only be transformed following a serious systemic crisis.
President Alexander Lukashenko, when appointing local executives, said that he was not against if a leading pro-governmental political party emerged in Belarus.
For a while now, President Lukashenko has been mulling over setting up the ‘Party of Power’, which would allow him to ensure loyalty of mid- and low-ranking officials. It is worth noting that in recent years, mid- and low level executive bodies have suffered from staff shortages and poor management, which, for example, resulted in derailed economic modernization plans.
Leaders of the ‘Belaya Rus’ quango do not hide their ambitions to transform the organization into a political party. As a rule, Lukashenko’s statements about the need to institutionalize the nomenclature’s interests coincide with national political campaigns or with the deepening socio-economic crisis.
President Lukashenko authorized the establishment of ‘Belaya Rus’ in 2004. The aim of its existence was to support him during the referendum to remove quantitative restrictions on presidential terms. Belaya Rus’ first HQs were in the Grodno region, considered as one of the most rebellious regions.
De facto, the issue of ‘Belaya Rus’’ transformation into a political party appears on the agenda each time before election campaigns start. However, as soon as the political cycle completes its round, the President gradually loses his interest in the ‘Party of Power’. In addition, the ‘Belaya Rus’ issue often coincides with Belarus resuming her Western policy.
Nevertheless, despite some signs of crisis in the governance, the ruling elite have full control over the situation in Belarus. President Lukashenko remains the most influential politician and his electoral rating remains at 34.8%.
Meanwhile, ‘Belaya Rus’ is not an institution which has a significant impact on people’s moods. According to IISEPS’ December poll, only 6.6% of the population would vote for Belaya Rus candidates, even fewer than for the ‘Tell the Truth!’ or ‘For Freedom’ movement candidates.
President Lukashenko will continue to delay the creation of the ‘Party of Power’ in Belarus, being careful not to delegate any authority to nomenclature or create any alternative sources of power. In times of crisis, President Lukashenko will rely on the use of force. However, ahead of the presidential campaign, the President will use various means to enhance the nomenclature’s loyalty, including populist rhetoric about the creation of the ‘Party of Power’.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.