Viktor Lukashenko’s informal leadership in Security Council strengthens
Appointment of Mezhuev as Security Council State Secretary implies that the agency and its leader have lost their footing in the Belarusian power hierarchy. The real authority to coordinate the law enforcement agencies has been assigned to President’s Assistant for National Security Viktor Lukashenko. If the socio-economic situation deteriorates, State Secretary Mezhuev might be held responsible for security lapses. In addition, Mezhuev’s appointment will not prevent budget cuts for power structures.
President Lukashenko has appointed Alexander Mezhuev as Security Council State Secretary.
Mezhuev is not from the president’s inner circle, which points to a revision in staffing policy. A one-month delay with the appointment could be due to difficulties in identifying the most suitable person for this position, and also linked to the review of mechanisms how influence is distributed inside the Security Council.
Prior to his appointment as the State Secretary, Mezhuev chaired the Parliamentary Commission for National Security. The Belarusian Parliament is regarded as the ‘staff reserve’ before deserved retirement. Thus, the MP’s appointment to lead the Security Council implies a significant reduction in the State Secretary’s functions and influence.
During his career, Mezhuev has played supporting roles in the Defence Ministry; he has little influence and few connections in any power structure. Moreover, he is not planning to lobby interests of the military – he said that “it is important to eliminate the ‘pain spots’ promptly and in time, especially in the sphere of housing and communal services, residential construction, job creation and so on”.
The president has a small pool of trusted persons from which he plucks senior managers for power structures. Until now, all Security Council State Secretaries have proved their loyalty to president Lukashenko either since his first presidential campaign or during their service in the president’s security agency. The president zealously watches over the personnel policy in power structures and over the balance between the various law enforcement agencies.
In 2007, President’s Assistant for National Security – Viktor Lukashenko – was incorporated in the Security Council’s structure. His functions in the SC are not clear, but with the current appointment as State Secretary of a person without influence or connections in the security services, his role is set to increase.
President Lukashenko is attempting to reduce risks in case of socio-economic destabilization and to balance out various law enforcement agencies. Ahead of the presidential campaign, the president cannot afford for influential persons to emerge in key positions, especially within the power structures. Therefore, presumably, he decided to enhance the national security assistant’s role – Viktor Lukashenko – by strengthening his informal leadership.
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.