Belarus Elections in the Focus of Polish Press

The recent presidential elections in Belarus have received significant attention in Polish press. All major media such as Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpospolita followed the events related to the elections. In Poland, those events bring back the memories of oppression, lack of freedom and poverty of 1980s. Back then, free elections resulted in mass beatings and arrests just like in Belarus these days.

It was a Polish politician Jerzy Buzek, the President of the EU Parliament, who was the first top European official to ring the bell about major election fraud, massive beatings and arrests in Belarus. Mr Buzek requested an immediate release of all detained and in particular presidential candidates.

Polish press began to follow Belarusian events closely as they unfolded. On the 21st December Gazeta Wyborcza, the leading Polish daily, wrote that Lukashenko did not win the elections. It quoted Radoslaw Sikorski, Foreign Minister of Poland, that in reality Mr Lukashenko received between 30 and 40% of the votes. Mr Sikorksi said that perhaps that was the reason for such a violent and irrational reaction which followed the elections. “Someone who wins honestly does not have to jail its competitors in prisons”- Sikorski stated in his interview.

Later that month, Gazeta Wyborcza described Mr Sikorski statements as "the strongest blow to the reputation of the Belarusian leader. " It emphasized that none of the foreign politicians have denied Lukashenko’s victory. Other foreign leaders only admitted that the elections were not fair.

According to the Polish press, Adam Rotfeld, a former Polish Foreign Minister, said that he was certain Mr Lukashenko did not win in the first round of the elections. He thought that Mr Lukashenko remains in power because he realizes that whoever comes to power after him, would hold him responsible for his misconduct such as the death of the disappeared opponents of the regime. "He who has blood on his hands, obviously is afraid of this responsibility” - said Rotfeld.

Mr Sikorski also spoke over the telephone with Olga Nieklaeva – the wife of Vladimir Nieklaev, an opposition presidential candidate. He shared his words of encouragement with Olga Nieklaeva according to the website of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Gazeta.pl writes about Polish contribution to improve the situation in Belarus. Mr Bosacki, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed that Poland would double its support to Belarus from PLN 20 to 40 mln (around US$13mln). The money is to be spend on helping the repressed, providing young Belarusians with scholarships, supporting mass media, radio and television such as Belsat broadcasting from Poland. According to Rzeczpospolita, the government is also considering abolishing visa fees for Belarusians, not only for Poland but also for the entire Schengen area.

Poland devoted more attention to the recent Belarus events than any other European country. It appears to be serious to commit significant resources to help democracy in Belarus. Poland is likely to play an active role in the EU institutions advocating sanctions against the Belarusian regime on one hand and stronger support for civil society in Belarus on the other hand.

Ewa Ceglarska

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