Alexander Lukashenko has been in power for twenty-three years. And during this whole time, I have heard different people say that, at some point, there will a ‘successor’, to whom Alexander Lukashenko will voluntarily and happily transfer power. These days, similar conversations take place more and more often, which is not surprising – people are tired of Alexander Lukashenko and want an ‘easy’ solution to the change of power, when it happens naturally and they don’t have to do anything.
Well, I have bad news for you. Alexander Lukashenko will not have a successor.
There won’t be a successor because the concept of political leadership, that Alexander Lukashenko came up with in 1994, successfully implemented and has followed ever since, makes this impossible. The concept of political leadership determines a lot of things, including the ways teams are made, internal problem-solving mechanisms (and there ae always such problems), methods of voter management (that is those who are not part of the team), existence of addresses to people in itself, law and decree making mechanisms etc. But most importantly, the concept of political leadership determines how leaders pass their power onto their successors.
Here are the photos, which are good example of two opposite concepts of political leadership. In each of the countries the leader of the other one, which has a different leadership concept, makes people smile and leaves them wondering: how can one vote for him? But in their own countries, each of them is highly and almost indisputably respected.
Why in the case of Belarus, the concept of political leadership is even more important than in other countries? We see personified political power, which is strictly associated with a specific person in Belarus. This is why the question of who exactly is going to replace Alexander Lukashenko is much more important for the voters than what political or economic programme that politician has.
So, at the start of his presidency in 1994, Alexander Lukashenko clearly formulated his concept of political leadership – “young wolves”. It was not declared in public but his whole team is basically a “pack of young wolves”.
Which difference between the “wolf’ and “human” leader? The “wolf’-leader is ready to kill for her/his power, the “human” leader is not.
What does this concept of political leadership mean for Belarus?
The country’s leader is the strongest and the most aggressive “wolf”.
Or, in other words, ‘alpha-male’. Yes, you cannot ‘sell’ such a definition of yourself as a leader to ordinary citizens, this is why we have a euphemism – ‘Batka’ (father). The meaning is the same: a strong, including in the terms of physics, leader, which makes decisions for everyone else in the pack/country. Those who disagree are made to obey to the will of the leader, or are otherwise destroyed. Interestingly, behind the scenes, state officials often call themselves a ‘family’, which is, essentially, the same thing as a ‘pack’. Other ‘wolves’ in the ‘pack’ must display public loyalty and this this Lukashenko came up with ‘selector meetings’, where he publicly humiliates members of his team. His trips around towns, villages, factories, collective farms, schools and hospitals across the country serve the same purpose: to ‘show off’ and show case state officials active reporting under the tight control of the ‘most of the most’. By the way, the good news for feminists is that the pack of wolves can also be led by its female member.
Leadership is based on ‘blood’ and cruelty.
As the ‘batka’ (father) or ‘leader of the pack’, Alexander Lukashenko has to constantly prove that he is the most brutal macho in all the senses of the word. This makes him a hostage of a certain political choice. He cannot show his weakness, whereas in a wolf’s pack humanity and humanism are considered as weaknesses. As a result, he cannot pardon his political competitors from opposition (if they are in jail), because for his team this would mean that he is no long ‘batka’ or the leader of the pack. Neither can Alexander Lukashenko abolish death penalty or at least introduce moratorium on its use. We note, that in the early years of his presidency death penalty was used much more often – up to several dozens a year. Today this number is a couple of people per year, which does have any influence and which could thus be avoided. But refusal from this practice would have an impact on the mood and loyalty inside Lukashenko’s team because a ‘humane and kind wolf’ is some kind of oxymoron. Abolition of death penalty would send a signal to his team, demonstrating that Alexander Lukashenko is no longer as strong as before – that he has become kind, old and relaxed. This, in its turn, would mean an increased risk of an internal coup, when someone from his own pack would try to replace the leader.
Free elections are impossible under such system.
There are no free elections, fair vote counting or healthy competition in a ‘pack of wolves’. This is because under a wolf’s concept of political leadership, the winner takes it all. And the one who loses not only gets nothing, but loses everything, including their freedom and, sometimes, even life. The strongest, the most aggressive, cruel and the smartest wolf wins over all the others. This is a struggle for survival from the very start, which is why there is no room for honesty here.
It is impossible to tame the wolf.
And this is why all the strategies ‘to reach agreement’ with Alexander Lukashenko have failed. ‘Wolves’ do not negotiate and do not engage in dialogue with other ‘wolves’.
For them the whole world is divided into:
- food (resource, which is what they can get from it for themselves), or
- danger (something that can take the resource from them, including power), or
- other pack of wolves (these are competitors, which have to be eliminated).
This is why all the attempts of starting a dialogue or negotiations have been useless and brought no results.
That said, the ‘wolf’ does not really care what happens tomorrow to the land where he lives and hunts today. And he does not care about what had happened there before he took control. This is a special mind set of a ‘wolf’.
So, what strategies do exist today to replace Aleksandr Lukashenko in the public domain and what do they mean for ordinary people?
Today this is better known as a “strategy of peaceful changes”, but it was first declared by Anatoli Levkovich, Chairman of the Belarusian social and democratic party. A number of independent Belarusian experts, Belarusian businessmen and the Liberal and Democratic Party support this strategy. Essentially, the strategy is about reaching an agreement with the “wolf”, so that those who are part of such an agreement, would not be penalised by him. One does not need to sit by the wolves’ side, it is enough just to stroke them, but, as you understand, one wrong move and “mowgli” will be eaten. There is one more nuance here: no matter what the “mowgli” does, he will never become a true member of the pack. We can see numerous examples when people from the opposition tried making an agreement with the power vertical or moving there, but never managed to truly become its part. Moreover, if the wolves are hungry, mowgli becomes a good and useful “strategic chip”: they move on their own, they are always clean and neat and always by the wolves’ side. For example, at times of economic crises happens, authorities start mass arrests of businessmen on the basis of ridiculous allegations and, basically, to “milk” them for money. Mowgli don’t stand a chance to become the leader of the pack, not that they needed it, anyways. Any mowgli is happy if another one gets eaten first.
This strategy means that people go hunting the “wolves” unarmed, the “wolves” get scared and run away, happy people take over the administrative buildings (post, telephone, telegraph) and start building normal (democratic) life. For example: all those peaceful protests that have taken place in Belarus in the past 23 years. Today the most vocal supporter of this strategy is Nikolay Statkevich and traditionally all the political parties that are in opposition. This strategy stands a chance to change the political situation, provided that there will be more people than “wolves” in the streets. But, unfortunately, not enough people take to the streets and unarmed people lose to the “wolves” (which have experience, batons and are united in their action). This usually ends with a bloody battle, which means that the wolves win. As you understand, the wolves pack does not care what is written on a poster or which flag you are carrying. They are just “hungry” (in this case, for power). This is why authorities put repressions on the liberals, as well as communists and Christians. Both pro-Russian and pro-European movements suffer equally. Everyone goes to prison: those from “Regnum” and those who support the web site “1863”. Each defeat (which happens every year, in fact) means that opposition has to re-invent itself, “rising from the ashes”. This is very difficult emotionally, people get depressed, frustrated and this is why every new election sees less and less active supporters of this strategy. Besides, there is one more thing worth mentioning here: sometimes Phoenix, having suffered torture, revives as a crazy one. This is demonstrated by a number of activists, which have gone through repression and had mental problems afterwards (started hearing voices from the sky, see conspiracies and KGB agents everywhere etc.).
«Let’s save the red-riding-hood»[iii].
This strategy is dangerous because it leads to the civil war in Belarus. Basically, this idea found its place in Belarus as a result of the events that have taken place in Ukraine. There are Belarusians who have taken an active part in the war in Ukraine, both on the side of LNR/DNR or ATO. These people know how to use weapons. If we look at the slogans, which can be heard from time to time from various sides of the conflict, each side thinks of itself as a “hunter” who is saving “the red-riding-hood” and her grandmother from the paws of the horrible wolf. Those, who support ATO, save their people from “the Russian criminals”, and those who support LNR/DNR are fighting “to save others from the Banderas and NATO”. The problem is that they all have fresh experience of killing people, they know how to do it and they want to do it, and this strategy is also based on the blood (even more so, because wolves in Belarus are more peaceful than the hunters). It is possible to replace Lukashenko using this strategy (a hunter with a gun is always stronger than a wolf or a pack of wolves), but this will be a change full of blood. Looking at how nervous Lukashenko and the enforces are, it is possible to assume that they seriously consider such a scenario and emergence of hunter(s).
«Akella has missed»[iv].
This is a strategy which is based on an insider “palace coup”, when the old leader of the pack – Alexander Lukashenko – is replaced with a “new wolf”, a younger, full of energy and more violent one. This concept is the closest to the “idea of a successor”, except for the fact that the new leader is selected by his own team, rather than by Alexander Lukashenko or his sons. It may appear as the new leader is a successor, but the difference is that the opinion of Alexander Lukashenko will not matter to anyone and will not influence the choice of the new leader. Let me reiterate – the new leader of the pack could be a female wolf (for example, Lidiya Yermoshina[v] or Natalia Kachanova[vi], both of whom control certain power structures). This strategy means that fears of many democratic activists will come true: they are afraid that we will get another “lukashenko”. Let me add, that in a situation like that, we would get a “young and aggressive Lukashenko from 1994-1999”. This means that he/she will be proving their leadership with people’s blood. It is important to remember that this strategy provides for a new “wolf” to be chosen exclusively from Lukashenko’s team. It will be someone who can seamlessly get closest to the “political throat”.
The Strategy of Our House.
We will tell about it later and separately. Follow our posts.
«Ivan Tzarevich and the Grey Wolf»[vii].
This is Russia’s strategy and we shall talk about it later. Let me just point out that this strategy has not been fully shaped because the concepts of political leadership followed by Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko are substantially different.
As far as I am aware, the strategies of the EU and the US consider only the first and the second Belarusian strategies. This is why it makes no sense to group them separately.
There are a number of theoretical strategies but since they are not used in Belarus yet, we will not touch upon those either.
As we can see, this concept does not have an option for Alexander Lukashenko personally to transfer power and leave the presidency. I understand that for him the best would be a strategy where there is a successor, because this way he would stay alive and free, and would keep some of the material benefits, but, sadly, wolves live by different sets of rules.
When the old wolf becomes weak and cannot prove his leadership, the pack turns away and goes to look for a new leader. The old leader and his opinion do not matter to anyone. It is impossible to make an agreement with the wolves, even if those used to be part of your own team. The only option is to run away (if the wolf is fast enough, but the team would be watching this closely) or heroically “die” in the “fight” with a new leader (not necessarily physically, this could also mean that the old leader would end up in prison or psychiatric hospital).
Today I can see that Alexander Lukashenko seeks to re-formulate the concept of political leadership in order to get out of this political deadlock. I do not believe that an old, and this means a weak leader (and today Lukashenko is already an old and a weak leader) is able to successfully “push forward” for a new concept (for this one needs energy and resources, which Lukashenko does not have today), but the attempts to do so is worth admiration.
However, it will be clear whose horse reaches the finishing line first in the next three to five years. In any case, Belarus will be going through interesting times in the near future.