Strong Presidential Power

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Strong Presidential Power

A strong presidential power in Belarus emerged as a result of the confrontation between the President and the Parliament. It was accompanied by the elimination of local governments, a system of constitutional control from the Constitutional Court and independence of judges.

Support from the security agencies (Ministry of Internal AffairsPresidential Security ServiceKGB, other secret services, prosecution agencies) is characteristic of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s power. In this situation, absence of a system of division of powers is balanced by division of security services influence and competition of different groups in the Belarusian dictator’s team.

The President is above the principle of division of powers. As a result, it is the presidential power which determines the policy of the executive power (President Lukashenka often takes chair at its meetings and gives instructions to the Prime Minister), legislative power is represented by the Parliament (in addition to administrating the edicts, the President introduces draft laws to the Parliament) and judicial power (in addition to appointing judges and controlling financial support of the courts, President Lukashenka actively gives informal instructions concerning certain cases to the courts. None of these “informal wishes” have been ignored). Besides the decrees and edicts, the President issues the so-called Directives – common directives which contain conceptual instructions concerning state policy for each branch of the power including the courts.

Due to such large powers of the head of the state, the Presidential Administration has in fact become a parallel government. Many functions of the government and several ministries (except for the security agencies) are duplicated by the Presidential Administration departments which effect political guidance.

At the same time, being a very important institution, this office functions extremely privately. In fact, the leading role of the Presidential Administration is close to that of the Communist party during the Soviet regime: it exercises political leadership and guides the national policy but is not responsible for the results.

The economic foundation of the President’s absolute power is a special off-budget presidential financial fund. Moreover, a President’s word has a decisive influence on governing the processes of privatization of the national enterprises and is the main guarantee for foreign investments, which is of crucial importance considering the non-legal system and absence of independent courts.

At the same time, it is quite important that there is no very pronounced pro-presidential party in Belarus. Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the bulk of his cabal are non-party people and several royal parties are marginal and just abstract. The attempts to create pro-presidential movements had no chance of success from the outset: in the 90’s Lukashenka preferred to rely on his legitimacy as a charismatic leader who “directly communicates with people, with no middlemen involved”.

In 2000-2012, by which time his charismatic legitimacy had been gradually exhausted, many of Lukashenka’s devotees started speaking about the need to create a strong “party of power” following the model of Putin’s United Russia in the Russian Federation. Before each presidential elections the Belarusian leader traditionally calls a quasi-democratic authority - All Belarusian People’s Assembly.

Yury Chaussov, political scientist

Author: Handbook on Belarus for International journalists