19 сакавіка 2006

Elections in Belarus

I've been watching events in Minsk, on the sites such as Radio Svaboda, http://www17.calypso.net/ci-121741/news/ (dead right now), and the LiveJournal community minsk_by, Komsomolskaya Pravda

The highlights:

More people came than everybody expected, the cited number 50,000 seems credible to me.

The police behaved much better than anyone expected. No reports of mass violence so far.

People coming back from the square were leaving in a good mood. "There are a lot of us" seems to be the mood. I am proud of Belarusians that so many of them came out, despite the threats coming from Luka & Co, despite the way the police have been acting towards political protesters, and despite hundreds of arrests in the days preceding elections, and despite the nasty weather.

Even those who plan on coming to the Oktiabrskaya Sq tomorrow, have very little idea as what they are going to do.

Those who have voted for Lukashenka are at least 47% - according to the results by Levada & Co. The official results of 80% and higher will be taken only by the most naive Lukashenka sympathizers. Those who don't support the opposition are not necessarily Lukashenka's supporters. Many people I've talked to strongly dislike Lukashenka, but still don't have much respect for the opposition, because the "full-time oppositioners" take Western funding and don't have serious plans for winning.

I think such criticism is not without grounds. There is a certain opposition establishment in Belarus, whose full-time job is to show some results to their Western sponsors. In essense, they don't play to win: in fact, they are paid because they lose.

In my opinion, Milinkevich is a decent candidate, the best ever to challenge Lukashenka. But to win against Lukashenka, it may take an even stronger candidate, who is

a. Better connected to the people, esp. the potential swing voters, such as proletarians and state employees, who are very numerous in Belarus

b. Has a stronger, more leader-like personality. Milinkevich looks like a typical интеллигент "intelligent". As the "unified opposition candidate", he simply appears too soft. While Kozulin is more charismatic, he is an obvious careerist, less popular than Milinkevich, but fortunately, he has been acting in accord with Milinkevich.

The bottom line, today in Minsk people have shown - at least to themselves - that they are ready for change, that they are tired of being afraid. Lukashenka, on the other hand, has shown that he is indeed afraid. My best wishes and much respect goes to those who came today, and those who will come tomorrow. Long live Belarus!

PubliusPundit has more


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