Belarus

Analysis of the situation in Belarus

Presidential Elections and the involvement of European civil society

, by Andrew Martselev

Analysis of the situation in Belarus

The situation in Belarus in light of the upcoming elections keeps changing rapidly, but even today we can still analyze a number of factors which make this campaign different from the previous ones.

The economy is developing rather fast: in 2004 there was about 10% GDP growth, in 2005 about 8%. It is the result of the good situation in the world market for Belarusian export goods and also because of Russian support in the form of cheap credits and low prices for gas, energy and oil.

Thus the salary of the citizens is increasing, but prices are increasing even faster because a great percent of GDP growth remains only on paper. Nonetheless, the regime is becoming more and more cruel to everyone who does not support its policy and abuse of basic human rights has become a standard of governmental policy with a lot of opposition leaders such as Statkevich, Severinets, Klimov, Skrebets, Marinich and others being put in jail, while others still have disappeared.

The Presidential Candidates

Many democratic parties and NGOs elected Milinkevich in the congress of democratic forces. In the upcoming March presidential elections 7 politicians will be seeking the Presidency: Lukashenko, Milinkevich, Kozylin, Frolov, Skrebets, Pozniak and Gaidykevich but only four of them collected more then 100000 signatures which according to the present legislation would entitle a person to become a candidate for President - Lukashenko (current leader and considered by many to be the only remaining Dictator in Europe), Milinkevich (candidate from the united opposition), Kozylin (former rector of Belarus State University, leader of the Belarusian Social Democrats party) and Gaidykevich( leader of the Belarusian Liberal party, present MP and a true Lukashenko supporter whose duty is to claim opposition). Frolov and Skrebets are now supporting Kozylin while Pozniak decided not to register because he does not believe in election and suggested his idea of an alternative election. The result is two oppositional candidates Milinkevich, oriented towards the West and Kozylin who is more East oriented. Gaidykevich is Lukashenko’s supporter who is entering the elections with the purpose of gaining personal benefits from the regime.

While official propaganda can be found everywhere, oppositional candidates do not have access to mass media, all TV channels are governmental and under absolute control, there is no independent press, one governmental internet operator and oppositional web sites are usually blocked before elections.

Moreover, each company which has one hundred employees should have an ideologist, and ideology as a subject appeared in all universities. A person can now get two years of prison for a wide range of oppositional activities and practically all independent NGO’s lost their registration while non-registered NGOs that still carry on activities are liable to imprisonment of two years.

Certainty about the outcome

There is no doubt that the upcoming elections will not be democratic and Lukashenko will call himself a victor with 90% of support. Although the ratings of Milinkevich and Kozylin are increasing, a lot depends on negotiations between Milinkevich and Kozylin and their will to work together in opposition. However, their negotiations failed because of great personal ambitions and it is now uncertain whether the opposition’s support will be enough to change the regime Recent Milinkevich meetings in Paris, Warsaw and Brussels with the high ranking European politicians showed that Europe is greatly interested in a free and democratic Belarus and the EU has recently given money for the creation of an independent television station; however the tender which won this money included a Russian television company. Hence it is very doubtful that a television station that has had a long and beneficial cooperation with Lukashenko would help create an independent television.

EU - the unknown quality

It is also quite difficult for a Belarusian to get an EU visa and the number of those who have visited European countries is quite low. This, together with official propaganda which claims that that EU, together with the USA, is an enemy for Belarus justifies the fact that European ideas are not very popular. EU resolutions do not play any role for the regime, and citizens do not know about them and the number of programs in which Belarus youth can take part is very limited. The elections will be held in March, but the questions which were discussed long ago with EU representatives have not been solved. The result of the efforts of the EU will be clear in the upcoming elections - but if the understanding of the situation does not go together with serious work from all interested sides, Belarus will remain a black hole on a European map for many years to come.

Photo: (cc) Alper Çuğun

This article was first published in the spring edition of JEF-Europe’s magazine The New Federalist back in March 2006, just before the Presidential elections in Belarus.

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