Reshuffles In Belarus

Expert of "Strategy" analytical center, Minsk

There were several reasons for the reshuffles in Belarus. Aide to Aliaksandr Lukashenka on Protocol Uladzimir Makei was appointed as Head of the Presidential Executive Office of Belarus and Head of the KGB (State Security Committee) Yuri Zhadobin was appointed as Head of the Security Council. The First Deputy Chairperson of the Frontier Troops Committee Vadim Zaytsev was appointed as Head of the KGB.

Previously, State Secretary of the Security Council Viktar Shejman and Head of the Presidential Executive Office of Belarus Gennady Nevyglas had been dismissed.

The formal reason why the officials were fired is an explosion in Minsk on the Independence Day. It is clear that the explosion is just a pretext for such important reshuffles. If to proceed from the official version, it would be logical to sack the Head of the KGB and the Minister of the Interior. But that did not happen. What is more, Yuri Zhadobin has been advanced.

This way, the explosion brought closer the reshuffles that had been planned long ago. Viktar Shejman's dismissal is of the greatest significance. He was Aliaksandr Lukashenka's right hand and one of the masterminds of the political repressions. This is an odious figure. The PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) and the Council of Europe Resolution requests that Shejman be fired on suspicion of his involvement in disappearance of the Belarusian politicians.

Viktar Shajman is the last representative of the old team with which Lukashenka came to power in 1994. This was the only governmental official whom Lukashenka owes something. For example, Shejman was the main witness of a doubtful attempt on Lukashenka's life in 1994.

Lukashenka got rid of his last companion-in-arms. Currently Lukashenka owes the governmental officials nothing. A dictator does not need companions-in-arms, he needs subordinates. In a sense, Shejman showed some independence.

But for last several years he was gradually losing control over the security agencies. Now those agencies are run by the President's elder son, Viktar Lukashenka, who is the Aide to the President on National Security.

Lukashenka is also going to improve the relations with the West. So, he tries to make concessions to it. In winter there was talk that political prisoners would be released in exchange for some political benefits for Lukashenka. At present the issue of the opposition's getting into the Chamber of Representatives in the autumn elections is being discussed. It is understandable that Lukashenka rather than people will elect the opposition to the Parliament.

In addition, from now on the opposition can be present at the district electoral committees. The President invited Pope Benedict XVI to Belarus, although before that the Belarusian authorities had shown preference to the Orthodox Church. Dismissal of Shejman and appointments of the new people, who have nothing to do with the political repressions, can look like Lukashenka's attempt to improve the relations with the West.

Apart from that, the political generations are being changed in a natural way and, therefore, the personnel are being rotated. Lukashenka has stayed in power for a long time. A new team is being formed, which is less connected with the Soviet heritage and partly with Russia.

So a younger team of politicians is coming to power. There is no telling if it will be corporate since Belarus' political system is closed and Lukashenka continues to be the major decision-maker.

The reshuffles can be indirectly related to the parliamentary elections and to the start of a more intense privatization stage. New challenges should be faced by a new team.

The elections will show in many respects whether better relations will be established with the West. So Lukashenka may allow the opposition to be elected to the Parliament.

As regards the privatization, the new people have less in common with the socialist past. They may be interested in using their powers to acquire property and they may urge the President to help them in that. Those people want to carry out market reforms as well as to derive their own benefits.