The ruling group attempts to restore 2010 state of affairs
On July 11th, a presentation of the 2012 Belarusian Yearbook was held in Minsk.
A comprehensive independent analysis of political and economic developments in Belarus in 2012 shows that the authorities are trying to use public administration tools from before the 2011 financial crisis. This increases the chance of a new crisis.
The latest edition of the Belarusian Yearbook 2012 contains articles written by 32 experts about recent developments in the state, society, economy, foreign policy and culture. The authors have outlined the following most significant trends.
In public administration, the “narrowing of the state” process is observed: the most important management functions are carried out by an ever-narrower range of bodies and individual officials. The Presidential Administration is clearly gaining influence and is taking over the government’s functions, in particular, of the Foreign Ministry and the Parliament. State policy is losing its consistency, and the system is functioning more poorly.
Recent parliamentary elections demonstrated that the Belarusian opposition is unable to adequately coordinate their actions and to provide substantial resistance to the authorities and to affect the course and outcomes of the election campaign. The election process is totally controlled by the ruling group which reduces chances for the 2015 presidential election to change the current political system.
The social sphere also suffers from the ‘narrowing of the state’. The state’s social responsibility vis-à-vis citizens is narrowing, manifested in the commercialization of medical care and education, and in reduced social benefits.
Against this background, paradoxically (but quite typical for Belarusian citizens) the population has adjusted to sharply deteriorated living standards since 2011. Belarusians’ willingness to protest against government policies is still low, but Lukashenko’s rating stagnated at circa 30%.
Economic policy returned to the 2010 inflationary growth model. However, in 2011 this model triggered the financial crisis which had a dramatic impact on the population’s living standards, and also reduced the manageability of the state apparatus. Therefore, the likelihood of the 2011 crisis’ repetition has increased.
The Belarusian Yearbook is a long-term joint project of the Belarusian and international expert community. The Yearbook is an annual publication which offers comprehensive analysis of the situation in major segments of the Belarusian state and society.
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.