Presidential Administration and security forces taking over Government functions

April 22, 2016 18:34

On July 12th, head of the Presidential Administration, Andrei Kobyakov, held a regular meeting of the working group on construction industry reform.

Construction industry reform clearly demonstrates which public authorities are most trusted by President Lukashenko and, consequently, have the greatest influence. As a result, Prime Minister Myasnikovich can only draw attention to the Government by making provocative statements.

As a result of the working group’s meeting, Kobyakov instructed the government to harmonize the ratio of administrative personnel and the actual number of builders in the main building organizations according to existing standards by October 1st, 2013. In other words, the head of the Presidential Administration demanded reform in construction industry management. This is supposedly the Architecture and Construction Ministry’s responsibility, which reports to Prime Minister Myasnikovich.

The working group receives information about the state of affairs in construction from two entities close to the President: the KGB and the State Control Committee. Within the working group, representatives of the Architecture and Construction Ministry are checked up on and are systematically subject to criticism on TV (which is deserved).

This seizure of control over the construction industry by the Presidential Administration was anticipated. Since 2010, public administration bodies have been systematically narrowing down to those that President Lukashenko trusts the most. These include the President’s Administration and controlling and law enforcement agencies.

In turn, Prime Minister Myasnikovich is forced to respond to such a ‘raider’s’ intervention in his area of responsibility. It should be recognized that the Prime Minister has very little opportunity to resist the process of ‘public administration shrinking’. Myasnikovich’s response does not look convincing. During the Council of Ministers’ meeting on July 10th, Myasnikovich demanded to simplify and accelerate the construction under investment contracts. To this, KGB Chairman Jakobson said that the issue would be discussed during Kobyakov’s working group.

Finally, on July 12th, Myasnikovich supported the controversial idea to introduce tax for the unemployed (about 445,000 working age nationals do not work anywhere and enjoy social benefits). This statement indicates an unfolding crisis, as the government is unable to achieve the economic growth targets set by the Presidential Administration or to change the state’s economic policy. The Prime Minister has to draw attention to himself with such outrageous statements.

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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.