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March 22, 2006
Are Belarus Protests Winding Down?

It appears that the revolution may be postponed, according to news reports from Belarus and its capital, Minsk. The number of protestors appearing at the daily rallies against the rigged re-election of perpetual President Aleksander Lukashenko has dropped considerably instead of inspiring fellow Belarussians to join the peaceful demands for change:

The authorities arrested dozens of protesters on Tuesday, including prominent opposition figures, in an effort to squelch public demonstrations over the declared victory of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko in the presidential election on Sunday.

Protesters gathered for a third day in October Square here after a few hundred had defied official warnings and camped out on the square overnight, unmolested by the police.

The arrests, however, appeared to have their intended effect as the size of the protests dwindled considerably after as many as 10,000 assembled on Sunday night in one of the largest public expressions of dissent since Mr. Lukashenko took office in 1994. In contrast, by Tuesday evening, 2,000 to 3,000 appeared, undeterred by snow, wind and subfreezing temperatures.

Anatoly V. Lebedko, an opposition leader and ally of the main opposition challenger, Aleksandr Milinkevich, was arrested early Tuesday near the square. He appeared in court later and was sentenced to 15 days in jail for having organized an unsanctioned protest, his aides said.

Today's AP report states that the number of protestors has dropped even farther today, down to an estimated 600. However, this may have two reasons apart from the arrests that Lukashenko has initiated. One would be the Belarussian weather, where the temperatures make overnight camping an uncomfortable prospect. More likely, the original call for delayed protests by the opposition may have convinced some protestors to save their powder until the weekend.

The original plan was to demonstrate on Sunday and then regather on the following Saturday. Some of those protesting made references to March 25th as the day they would gather in force to demand change. This appears to have been a tactical error on the part of the Milinkevich supporters. In order to face down tyrants like this through "people power", momentum has to build continuously until the force of it can no longer be denied. Starting and stopping these kind of demonstrations make them easier to handle and will fail to convince ordinary Belarussians to flock to their standard.

Hopefully those protesting for fair and open elections and real democracy in the last bastion of European dictatorship can pick up the threads of their peaceful revolution on March 25th. If they do, they should take care to continue the effort until it succeeds instead of waiting for the weekends.

Keep watching Publius Pundit for more information.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 22, 2006 6:13 AM

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