March 26, 2007

Belarus Opposition Rallies

With Vladimir Putin increasing the power of the state by disbanding opposition parties, activists for liberty have poked their head above ground in one of his satellites. Opponents of the Alexander Lukashenko regime held a rally in Minsk, defying a disenchanted dictator who has started looking west for friends lately:

As many as 10,000 protesters took to the streets of Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on Sunday in one of the largest demonstrations ever staged against the authoritarian rule of President Alexander Lukashenko.

The demonstrators marched in three groups to a meeting away from the city center after riot police prevented them from entering a central square. No injuries were reported, but several activists were arrested, organizers said.

The rally was addressed by Alexander Milinkevich, who ran against Lukashenko for the presidency last year in elections that were widely condemned as flawed.

"We are the majority. We will win," Milinkevich told the protesters, who were marking the anniversary of the establishment in 1918 of an independent republic that was quickly suppressed by Red Army troops. "The authorities will fall under the pressure of their lies."

They may indeed fall, but the pressure of Lukashenko's aborted friendship with Putin will more likely be the cause. Lukashenko made a big display of unity with his sponsors in Moscow during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and cheered when Putin made Viktor Yushchenko pay for his rebellion by jacking up energy prices. Unfortunately, Lukashenko got the same treatment from Putin last year, even while Lukashenko acted like a loyal puppy to Putin.

With Putin consolidating his power in Moscow and Lukashenko no longer getting VIP treatment, he has tried opening a dialogue with the West. However, they have not responded with great warmth to the notion of an alliance with Europe's last dictator. Lukashenko has never held an election he did not corrupt, and his 83% share of the last vote holds more in common with Saddam Hussein's elections that those of free democracies to his west. The Poles would especially like to see Lukashenko gone, and have no desire to replace Putin as a prop to his regime.

Lukashenko may need to reach an accommodation with the native opposition. He will get nowhere with the Europeans until he acknowledges the falsity of Belarussian elections and agrees to hold a fair vote. Undoubtedly, the result of that election would not only put Lukashenko out of power but also likely behind bars. Before Belarus descends into violence, Lukashenko would do best by arranging a transition plan for Belarus that will allow him to maintain his freedom, if not some share of his current power.

As Ukraine proved, events can move fast if the people sense an opening. Europeans have a habit of stringing up despots that they depose. Lukashenko might want to recall that history.


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Comments (1)

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 26, 2007 9:24 AM

Its hell when HQ comes down to your thriving little independent subsidiary and says "Well, listen we've got this new reconsolidation thing going on up at corporate and while we really like you and all you've done for us, we're going to clip your wings and fold your operation into the rest of the firm next year." It sucks!

So then you go accross town to your competition and say "Gee folks, look at what I did for my current boss and imagine what I can do for you.", and they fall on the floor in uncontrollable laughter. Now that REALLY sucks!