Nikolai Lukashenko flanked by his father and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez
Nikolai Lukashenko flanked by his father and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko has continued to stir up controversy on his visit to Venezuela by hinting that he is grooming his youngest son for succession.

Lukashenko has two older sons, Viktar and Dzmitry, from his estranged wife, and a youngest son, Nikolai, by a mystery woman.

In recent months the president has surprised many by taking seven-year-old Nikolai with him on trips abroad.

Images of the child and his father started to circulate widely a few years ago, but it now seems the youngest Lukasenko in line has become his father's favourite.

"In 20 to 25 years there will be someone to take over the reins of this co-operation," Lukashenko told President Hugo Chavez on a visit to Venezuela in a clear indication that hye meant the seven-year-old boy by his side.

"Europe's last dictator", as he has become known, is an unpopular figure among most European leaders  because his authoritarian reputation is regarded as a stain on Europe's pro-democracy stance but he was widely welcomed by his friend Chavez.

"Venezuela is full of joy, decked out to welcome our brother president," Chavez said.

 "Over the years we have not only built a true strategic alliance, but a sense of brotherhood," he added.

Lukashenko in succession war?

One person set to be taken aback by Lukashenko's comments is his oldest son, 36-year-old Viktar.

Not benefiting from the same limelight as that of his younger brother, Viktar has long been in the shadow of his father but has done little to hide his ambitions.

When asked if he could see himself replacing his father, he responded: "Why not?"

He has a background in international relations, has worked in Belarus's army, foreign ministry and a state-owned corporation before becoming his father's national security aide.

Like his little brother, Viktar has also been on various foreign trips, with commentators saying he has close ties with several future potential successors of Arab leaders.

He remains a semi-influential figure in the country, with Belarusian media even tipping him as the successor but analysts warn he still needs to prove himself and lacks his father's charisma.

The president is still young though and at 57 shows no sign of wanting to give up power or leave politics.

While publicly he might joke about his seven-year-old son replacing him, he might actually do so to give Viktar time to consolidate his position as the legitimate successor.