Reprimanding in public cannot radically change the situation.
Lukashenka made an announcement that a big meeting is being prepared regarding the activities of the law-enforcement agencies back in winter. Checks were carried out, commissions worked. However, for some reason it was postponed. The factors that accelerated the holding of this meeting were scandals, in particular, the story of chief engineer of the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant Andrei Halavach, who spent four years in prison and was twice acquitted by the court.
And on August 20, Lukashenko finally held the promised meeting. He called it historical. This seems to be true. It seems that never before Lukashenka has so negatively assessed the work of all law-enforcement agencies, as it is the case now. There was a take-down of certain offices. Several purges took place in the KGB, at one of the meetings in 2007 Lukashenka even called the KGB men “shepherds”. Customs services were sharply criticized for corruption scandals, the same as police. But making such a verdict regarding all structures in such a sweeping manner - this has never happened before.
It should be noted that the law-enforcement agencies in Belarus have a special status. As in any non-democratic state, the role of the law-enforcement agencies and, above all, special services is hypertrophied. They are the central state institution, bearing the construction of the ruling regime, the most important tool for maintaining power and control over the society. Therefore, their functions in Belarus are much wider than in democratic countries.
Any authoritarian state is a police state by nature. Law-enforcement agencies receive a full carte blanche to control the population, disregarding the law and human rights. This leads to arbitrariness, outrage, “legal lawlessness”. The repressions against political opponents need separate discussion. But there were so many scandals related to the fact that police officers, representatives of other structures beat and humiliated people. Lukashenka, however, when a case reached him, almost always took the security forces under protection. Indeed, his power depends on their loyalty.
Why did Lukashenka suddenly fall upon them with harsh criticism now?
There are two reasons for this. First, an authoritarian leader, giving carte blanche to the law-enforcement agencies, special services, falls into the system trap. Having the right to completely ignore the law, permissiveness, lack of control, they inevitably turn into closed castes, which, instead of protecting the regime, begin to serve their own corporate interests and play their own game. At some stage, the situation began to slowly crawl from under Lukashenka’s control and threaten the stability of the regime. It’s like in a Hollywood movie, a robot policeman rebels against its creators and starts to destroy everything around.
Secondly, the era of the Internet creates a different informational situation compared to the past. The scandals with the arbitrariness of the law-enforcement agencies gain such a public outcry that they begin to mar Lukashenka’s reputation. This is especially unpleasant during election campaigns.
Therefore, Lukashenka was forced to make such a public take-down. By the way, he confirmed all the conclusions made by human rights defenders, independent media. For example, that law-enforcement officers falsify cases under the “drug” articles of the Criminal Code. Remember how the officials, the state media were outraged, claiming that the opponents deliberately launched a campaign to discredit the police. Now Lukashenka has proved who was really right.
However, this public take-down cannot radically change the situation. After all, an authoritarian regime and the rule of law are incompatible things. Please note that Lukashenka did not criticize the courts at all for the fact that they hardly pass acquittals. Quite the contrary. Here is his remark: “We have such a practice: the courts, in order to make a decision, need a lot of evidence and the volume of facts of crimes. This is an unacceptable practice! A crime and a half is enough to punish a villain.”
An authoritarian regime can exist only in the form of a police state. There is no other way.
Valer Karbalevich, Radio Svaboda