President Lukashenko’s support is high, but Belarusians request change either way

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April 22, 2016 18:49

For a considerable part of the electorate, President Lukashenko remains a guarantor of stability. But despite electoral support for the opposition being in decline, many see the “People’s Referendum” initiative as an alternative which could bring changes. If the democratic forces manage to agree on a single candidate who is able to propose a clear vision with a long-term strategy for reforming the country, his/her rating could vie with that of Lukashenko.

According to the March national poll by IISEPS, Lukashenko’s electoral rating reached 39.8%.

Using traditional rhetoric against the backdrop of events in Ukraine, the Belarusian authorities have succeeded in attributing Belarus’ stability to President Lukashenko.

Nevertheless, despite his rise in popularity, Lukashenko cannot consolidate Belarusian society, which is increasingly aware of the socio-economic model’s failures and of their president’s inability to make management in the public sector more efficient. President Lukashenko’s frequent visits to regional enterprises and threats to prosecute for mismanagement have neither pushed managers to act, nor improved the quality of their work. Meanwhile, with social guarantees and incomes in a downward spiral, people are discontent with the state policy.

The “People’s Referendum” project meets the population’s wishes, and new approaches to working with the electorate within the project have yielded results. Almost half (49%) of the respondents said they were willing to give their signature in support of the People’s Referendum.

Many Belarusians are demanding change and an alternative to President Lukashenko. 40.9% of respondents support the nomination of a single opposition candidate - more than the combined rating of the opposition parties and leaders. For example, the most popular opposition leader, Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu of “Tell the Truth!”, has 7% of popular support and has not seen changes in his rating for months. A single presidential candidate from the democratic opposition would consolidate the protest-minded electorate and significantly increase her/his rating before the 2015 presidential campaign.

But chances of the opposition uniting are low, as their hopes for political change in 2015 have diminished, and, as in the past, they are torn apart by mutual distrust. In addition, the single candidate from the democratic forces would be tasked with delivering a clear statement about her/his vision of possible changes in the Belarusian society.

The ‘Euromaidan’ scenario in Belarus is no longer attractive for a large part of the protest-minded electorate. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and her attempts to destabilise South-East Ukraine have triggered a broad debate within the Belarusian opposition. Various opposition groups are attempting to reach a common standpoint on how to preserve the geopolitical balance as well as Belarus’ sovereignty during democratic transformation.

Demand for a new national leader will rise as long as the current economic model continues to fall apart. Meanwhile, the Belarusian authorities will keep Lukashenko’s electoral rating at an acceptable level until the presidential campaign starts in 2015. Despite the slim chances of an opposition candidate winning the 2015 elections, her/his nomination by the democratic forces could consolidate protest voters and reduce threats to stability in the country.

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President ensures continuity of state administration with young middle-level personnel
October 02, 2017 12:08
Image: BRSM.BY

President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.

President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.

The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.

The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.

The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.

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