March 11 – March 17, 2024
The ruling elite

“The Godfather”: Lukashenko’s Deeply Echeloned System

The situation has not changed
“The Godfather”: Lukashenko’s Deeply Echeloned System

Lukashenka is trying to preserve his position and the personalist nature of his regime in the new power configuration. This comes after concessions to other state institutions and the nomenklatura following the 2020 crisis. Lukashenka appoints his closest associates to leadership positions, those personally connected and loyal to him. Likely, over time, he will try to solidify cronyism in the state’s leadership, transferring power to the closest person from his family circle.

Lukashenka has built a personalist regime with numerous pseudo-representative institutional superstructures designed to prevent threats to monopolistic power. These multi-level filter institutions protect the ruler and his minions from challenges both from society and from nomenklatura groups.

The deeply echeloned system minimizes the procedural removal of Lukashenka from power. Meanwhile, public unrest and rebellion against election fraud are brutally suppressed by the regime’s guards (after the 2020 protests, a preventive cleansing of society from dissent continues). At the same time, collusion among security forces is prevented by competition between numerous agencies under Lukashenka’s personal control, as well as constant personnel rotations.

In the early years of his presidency, Lukashenka sought to protect himself from potential threats of procedural (legislative) removal from office by creating a bicameral parliament. After the 1996 referendum, the unicameral Supreme Soviet was replaced by the bicameral National Assembly.

Members of the upper house of the National Assembly are not elected by direct voter vote but are determined at local council meetings. Meanwhile, local councils are integrated into the representative vertical, and their members are loyal representatives of local authority or the economic vertical.

In 2024, a new regime institution will be created as a superstructure over other representative bodies – the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly (ABPA). Candidates from local councils and parliament, NGOs, political parties, and state bodies are co-opted into the National Security Service. Moreover, this representative body of the regime with expanded powers is managed by a presidium, where the most loyal to Lukashenka individuals are filtered. The politician tries to create another additional filter with the ABPA as a guarantee of maintaining personal power indefinitely.

Furthermore, Lukashenka appoints people from his close circle to power positions, including family members. Among others, the chief physician of the Republican Clinical Medical Center of the President’s Administration, Iryna Abelskaya, who is referred to in the media as the mother of Lukashenko’s youngest son Mikalai, was nominated to the Senate.

Lukashenka continues to shift the emphasis from leaving office to transforming the power system. The politician expects to maintain a leading role in the new power configuration.

Thus, the tug of war between the nomenklatura groups and Lukashenka continues. The dictator is unlikely to agree to the role of “first among equals” in a collegial management system. The politician will try to retain full power, combining the positions of president and chairman of the ABPA.

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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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