President Lukashenko is after nomenclature’s support

April 22, 2016 18:44

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’.

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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.