Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 187

President Aleksandr Lukashenko is moving rapidly to reverse the economic and political reforms initiated in Belarus before he came to power. On October 4, Lukashenko signed a decree requiring that imports from countries outside the CIS customs union be subject to a special, case-by-case governmental review. He also ordered the cabinet of ministers to set up a task force for "defending the domestic market" through a national program that will include tariff and nontariff measures, quotas, import substitution, and subventions to domestic producers. In addition, Lukashenko issued a decree obligating the government to guarantee jobs for higher and secondary school graduates and for military conscripts upon discharge. In an address on the Soviet-era Teachers’ Day, the president also warned against the risks of "de-ideologization." He deplored both the "reckless abandonment of the experience of previous years" and called for ideological education and a restoration of Red Pioneers’ organization in the schools. (Belaplan, October 3 and 5; Interfax, October 3, 4, and 7)

Lukashenko has in recent days shown less than full confidence in the outcome of the constitutional referendum he plans to conduct on November 7 in a bid for more personal power. He may now be trying to leave an indelible mark on state policy before facing that test, which appears to be posing an increasing risk to his presidency. The retreat from reforms forced the World Bank to announce two weeks ago the suspension of lending to Belarus.

Azerbaijan, Iran Cautiously Explore Closer Ties.