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.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.