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March 21, 2006
Belarus Teeters On The Edge

Protests have continued to a third day in Belarus despite the bragging of Aleksander Lukashenko that he had defeated reformers in the crooked elections that saw him garner 83% of the vote:

Hundreds of protesters defied Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko for a third day on Tuesday, massing in the capital to protest over his re-election, denounced as flawed by Washington and independent observers.

In a protest unprecedented for the tightly-controlled, ex-Soviet state, opposition demonstrators continued an overnight vigil and camped in driving snow on a Minsk central square to back a call for a re-run of a vote they say was rigged.

Lukashenko, 12 years in power and criticized by the opposition and in the West for authoritarian Soviet-style rule, swept back into office on Monday with an official tally of 82.6 percent.

Nearest rival Alexander Milinkevich, with six percent, called the poll fraudulent, a view shared widely in the West, though the result was never in doubt given Lukashenko's control over much of public life and media.

Last week, Belarus threatened protestors with death for political "terrorism". Now they can't scare them off the streets, and the security forces seem unable to shut down the calls for new and proper elections. Keep watching, because either Belarus is heading for another velvet revolution in the footsteps of Ukraine and Georgia, or it's heading for a Tiananmen Square disaster. Given Lukashenko's location at the eastern end of Europe, and given the problems the Russians already have, I'm betting on the former. I predicted that this would occur within months; it looks more like weeks now, and maybe sooner than that.

Publius has his ear to the ground, as always.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 21, 2006 7:36 AM

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