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March 20, 2006
Why, He's Almost As Popular As Saddam Hussein!

Earlier I noted the elections in Belarus and the unrest that accompanied the campaign as the "last dictator in Europe", Aleksander Lukashenko, appeared to have the election sewn up in every possible manner. The ruling regime had threatened death to the protestors in a move that appeared to signal desperation on the part of the Lukashenko government, and I predicted that a popular uprising would take over Belarus within months. That prediction appears to be closer to reality as a wave of protest has built after a ridiculous election resulted in 88% of all votes going to Lukashenko:

An expected landslide for President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko drew several thousand Belarussians into the streets on Sunday, as protesters ignored swirling snow and official threats of arrest to denounce the election as a clumsily orchestrated sham.

With 32 percent of ballots counted shortly before midnight on Sunday, Mr. Lukashenko, a former collective farm boss who has been in office 12 years, had won 88 percent of the total, said the secretary of the central election commission, Nikolai I. Lozovik. That figure exceeded even the state's own surveys of voters leaving the polls and hardened assertions by Mr. Lukashenko's opponents that the results were fraudulent.

"They say we want a revolution," the leading opposition candidate, Aleksandr Milinkevich, told thousands of protesters who gathered peacefully in October Square, the central square in Minsk, as the polls closed at 8 p.m. "No. We want only free and fair elections. What happened here was a farce. We do not recognize this election."

According to the announced results, Mr. Milinkevich distantly trailed in second place, with 4 percent — far below the level American-financed polls had recently indicated he could receive. [With most of the ballots counted later Monday morning, The Associated Press reported, Mr. Lukashenko had 82.6 percent and Mr. Milinkevich had 6 percent.]

Lukashenko made the same mistake as Viktor Yanukovich in Ukraine -- he staged a phony election instead of just passing laws which kept him in power. Elections give hope to the electorate that their efforts can bring real change to government. When those elections reveal themselves to be utter frauds, as this laughable result clearly shows, the people that participated in that hoax get disillusioned -- and that disillusionment breeds embarrassment and anger. When enough people feel embarrassed and angered over getting duped, they band together to take action.

It was precisely that engine that forced Yanukovich to restage the national elections that had denied Viktor Yuschenko a fair shot at the presidency, and eventually toppled the clan rule that had held power in the former Soviet republic since the collapse of Communism in Russia. Yanukovich and his patron, Leonid Kuchma, found out too late that elections inspire people, and if they get thwarted, that inspiration does not disappear.

Perhaps Lukashenko will avoid the soft coup d'etat that other people-power democratic revolutions have created, but if so, he may well regret it. After issuing death threats last week for protestors, the Belorussians have discovered in yesterday's protests that Lukashenko simply doesn't have that kind of power. If the unrest continues to build, he may wind up fleeing Belarus to save his own life, a fate that Yanukovich avoided by relenting to demands for a truly free election -- and remaining a part of the political scene in Kyiv.

Publius Pundit has much more on this developing situation.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 20, 2006 6:08 AM

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