September 17 – September 23, 2018
The ruling elite

The authorities aim to tighten the Internet regulation; the president further rotated regional officials

The situation has not changed
The authorities aim to tighten the Internet regulation; the president further rotated regional officials

The ideological vertical, the state media and law enforcers further lobbied the identification of users at internet forums, aiming to reduce and depoliticise the audience of independent online media organisations. The Belarusian leadership further focused on rejuvenating regional leaders. The president with the help of his regional aide is attempting to strengthen control over regional leaders and to boost the efficiency of the pilot re-industrialisation project in Orsha.

The authorities ponder over additional measures to strengthen the Internet regulation, however, they seek to avoid public outcry and international pressure. For instance, they announced a public discussion of the draft regulation aiming to introduce the identification of visitors at internet forums through a subscription number, which, however, lasted only ten days and was restricted to accepting proposals from interested parties.

The likely aim of the authorities is to discipline politicised Internet audiences through targeted demonstrative repressions against most active users. In turn, ideologists hope to reduce the popularity and influence of the independent online media. However, such an approach is unlikely to ensure a boost in the popularity of the state media. Nevertheless, such measures may create an impression that the popularity of the state media has improved amid reduced traffic in the independent online media.

The Belarusian leadership further attempted to enhance economic efficiency and control over the regional vertical. The president further held staff rotations as the primary strategy for ensuring the loyalty of the regional nomenclature. President Lukashenka replaced leaders in three regions and authorised appointments of regional executive officials. The trend towards the rejuvenation of regional leaders persisted: two out of three district leaders are under 40 years old. Simultaneously, the president is attempting to improve control over the regional executives. For instance, ex-Industry Minister Vovk, who was fired following a row, was actually promoted and appointed an assistant-inspector to the president for the Vitebsk region.

The authorities are likely to further tighten control over the independent online community in preparations for the presidential and parliamentary elections.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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