President Lukashenko promotes the Belarusian model in Russia
The Russian Duma elections revealed the weakness of the ruling party United Russia and Alexander Lukashenko could not resist the temptation to promote his model of authoritarian welfare state on the Russian political arena. He did not exclude his potential involvement in Russian politics.
On December 13, President Lukashenko gave an interview to a Russian radio station Russian news service.
The interview proved that the Belarusian President remained faithful to the idea of social and fair authoritarian modernization, which he set-off to the Russian oligarchic capitalism. Lukashenko could not resist the temptation to state that the Belarusian orderly and comfort, as well as discipline of state officials and employees and in social sphere could easily be implemented in Russia.
Moreover, the Belarusian President made a tribute to himself for social stability in Belarus. He tried to emphasize the benefits of his stand to Russia, where, following the parliamentary elections a number of unprecedented mass protests was held. With reference to the October Revolution, Lukashenko suggested that the Russian government risked losing control over the protests: “Ten thousand people turned Russia upside down”. Thereby Lukashenko also promoted his tough methods of dealing with street protests in Belarus in June-July 2011.
Finally, Lukashenko made an unexpected move and sent a liberal message to his Russian counterparts and Russian citizens, namely he said that if he were in the shoes of President Medvedev, he would have come out to the protesters at the Bolotnaya Square in Moscow (i.e. the mass rally held there on December 10).
Lukashenko’s words should not be taken seriously – it was an obvious populism due to the fact that for many years he had not met voters directly and communicated with the protestors via the law enforcement.
Belarusian President believes that his main political asset is allegedly close relationship with the first President of the Russian Federation and the “father” of Russian oligarchs Boris Yeltsin. Lukashenko also reminded that while creating the Union State, Boris Yeltsin, in principle, opened the door for the Belarusian president to become the head of the new state. However many years have passed since the death of Boris Yeltsin and these arguments of Lukashenko could be used in “memoirs”. However, the steering body of the Eurasian Economic Union gives officials close to Lukashenko food for thought about their careers after 2015. For instance, on 13 December the President has appointed former Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky as a member of the board for industry and agriculture of the CES. Other officials are also curious who will be appointed for other leading positions in this body. At the same time the Belarusian President rules out any possibility of continuity of power in Belarus.
Therefore, the key messages President Lukashenko intended to send to his Russian counterparts are as follows:
- Russian oligarchic model of governance leads to the stratification of society and social protests;
- Recent protests threaten Russian political system with change, following the example of the “Arab spring”;
- Belarusian model of authoritarian social welfare state guarantees social justice and social stability;
- It is not yet too late for Russia to implement the President Lukashenko’s model.
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.
In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.
The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.
Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.