Election 2011: How realistic is the regime change?
David Marples, professor at the University of Alberta, Canada and a President of the North American Association for Belarusian Studies is on the research trip to Minsk right now. In the article for the Jamestown Foundation * he reflects on possible outcomes of the Belarusian presidential election of 2011. The expert is analyzing the most recent opinion poll results in order to support his predictions.
Prospects For Regime Change in Belarus
By: David Marples
The Jamestown Foundation
Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 140
July 21, 2010
The approach of a new election always leads political analysts in Belarus to revisit a familiar question: is regime change possible or remote? Are Belarusians in general satisfied with the presidency of Alyaksandr Lukashenka? Will the current rift with Russia lead to the downfall of the leading politician in Belarus and, if so, who is likely to succeed him?
Before each election, Lukashenka adopts the posture of a man too busy to deal with the petty intricacies of a campaign. True to form, he stated in mid-July that his priorities at present are the forthcoming harvest campaign, decisions on the annual and five-year budgets, and the convocation of the so-called All-Belarusian People’s Congress, an unelected body that is assembled prior to each presidential election as a means to approve the general economic policies of the leader. Traditionally also, he lambasts the opposition, and he has referred to them this time as “leeches” who simply take “grants” from foreign sources to enrich themselves. He had anticipated the nomination of two or three candidates, he commented, “but not ten!” All of them, he added, have to live off these grants because they do not work. They are thus homeless and jobless. Their goal of agreeing upon a single candidate to replace Lukashenka is a “fantasy” (Belarusian Telegraph Agency, July 16).
Andrej Sannikau on Hard Talk, BBC
Andrej Sannikau, a potential candidate in 2011 Belarus presidential elections appeared on Hard Talk, the BBC World flagship current affairs interview programme.
Stephen Sackur, BBC journalist who interviewed Mr Sannikau has made a few “hard” points, in particular to Mr Sannikau’s own personality. The journalist correctly pointed out that Mr Sannikau does not represent any major political organization in Belarus, just a well-run web site. Mr Sannikau also appears as an intellectual detached from the Belarusian population and is likely to have more friends in the West than in Belarus.
Stephen Sackur also pointed out that the Belarus’ economy is better than Ukrrain’s and the regime in Minsk has not committed any serious human rights violations since 1990-s when several prominent opposition figures disappeared. Lukashenka also seems to remain popular and Belarus economy is becoming more open because of the privatisation process.
Sanniknau correctly explained that it was wrong to judge the regime’s popularity by looking at opinion polls. No access to electronic media by anyone other that the ruling regime means no real popularity for anyone else. He also correctly pointed out that it was misleading to compare Belarus to Ukraine which because Belarus was in a much better shape after collapse of the Soviet Union. Privatisation in Belarus is done in a non-transparent way which is unlikely to benefit either the Belarus population or will make the economy more liberal. Finally, Sannikau pointed out that the prospect of Belarus’ integration into Russia is supported neither by the vast majority of Belarus population, nor by Belarus regime nor opposition.
Most of the issues raised in the BBC program are not new to those who follow Belarusian events. However, many in the huge audience of BBC will learn a few interesting facts about Belarus. It is important that Belarus problems are remain on agenda. It is less important who raises those problems as long as the basic values of Belarus independence, human rights and democracy are fully supported.
YK & AČ