Taking part in social protests is a good training for the opposition
On March 17, a meeting of Deputy Chairman of the Smolevichi Executive Committee Mr. Verevkin and local dacha owners took place near Minsk. The meeting concerned the construction plan, envisaging construction of a Chinese industrial park, which would be in the immediate vicinity of the dachas.
Involvement of regional authorities in the negotiations confirms the general trend that at least the authorities are willing to enter into a dialogue with the protesters, particularly in cases when the latter are well organized (in this case, the protesters were organized and supported by the leadership of the “Tell the Truth!” campaign). Previously, the governor of Minsk Oblast, Mr. Batura, met with dacha owners.
On the one hand, the strategic importance for the Belarusian authorities of the construction project (it has already been agreed with the Chinese Embassy) implies that the authorities will adhere to their position as long as possible. On the other hand, it is likely that the negative publicity of the project, i.e. a “Chinese invasion” of Belarus (rumors circulate that the project will bring 600,000 Chinese workers), keeps the authorities from signing the decree to launch this project and, in the end will reflect interests of the local residents in the body of this document.
Representation of collective interests remains the most effective means of influence on both, the authorities and the population, available to political and civic organizations.
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.