Lukashenko played the role of a guarantor of justice
On February 24, President Lukashenko reprimanded and reproved high-ranking officials of the Belarusian State TV Company, the Government and the Presidential Administration for the falsification of the voting results in the finals of the national qualifying round of the “Eurovision” music contest. Following the decision of a special commission, a singer Lanskaya had to pass the first prize to a band Litesound.
A high-profile meeting with President Lukashenko on the eve of the EU Council meeting on 27 February was for the domestic consumption and aimed at two image-making purposes. Firstly, President Lukashenko appeared to the Belarusian population as the supreme defender of justice against corrupt officials. Also the President of Belarus sent a signal to the business community to be careful with their financial projects (the main sponsor of the contest was a well-known Belarusian manufacturer Shakutin).
Secondly, on the eve of potential introduction of new sanctions against Belarus by the EU, the government has strengthened its self-defense position. If on 27 February the EU Council votes for the new sanctions against Belarus, it will be used by the propaganda machine and interpreted as Brussels’ “ingratitude” to a positive “pro-European” signal of good will sent by Belarus. The whole story is also a response to the OSCE allegations and the allusion to the fact that ballot rigging is impossible in Belarus.
President Lukashenko has also used this scandal to mobilize his immediate circle. The inquiry in to the incident has been held involving the Head of the Presidential Administration Vladimir Makey and his Deputy, Alexander Radkov, Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Tozik, staff of the State Control Committee, the Investigation Committee and Department for combating crimes in the sphere of Information Technology of the Interior Ministry. As a result of the investigation, reprimands made to the Chairman of the Belarusian State TV Channel Davydko and Minister of Culture Latushko. Makey, Radkov and Tozik were reproved. The most emotional moments of the meeting were shown in the prime time.
By punishing officials for rigging the vote, the President made it clear that any initiative of the kind will be punishable if undertaken without prior coordination. Actions of Lukashenko also indicate that he will use any opportunity to reinforce the image of a “strong authority”.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.