The National Endownment for Democracy hosts an event on Belarus
The International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and RFE/RL invite you to a briefing:
Are Belarus' Overtures to the West Genuine?
Friday, December 12, 2008 9:00AM-10:30AM
National Endowment for Democracy 1025 F Street NW, Suite 800 [at the historic Woodward and Lothrop Building]
Olga Kazulina Activist and daughter of opposition leader, Alyaksandr Kazulin
Alyaksandr Klaskouski Director of Analytical Projects, BelaPAN news agency
Rodger Potocki Director for Europe and Eurasia, National Endowment for Democracy
Please RSVP by email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> or
by telephone to (202) 378-9525.
Despite the controversial September 2008 parliamentary elections in Belarus, which were widely denounced by western observers as undemocratic, the European Union has followed through on pre-election pledges to loosen travel restrictions on Belarusian government officials, including President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Over the past year, Belarus has taken steps to release political prisoners and says it wants improved relations with the West. Is Belarus, which continues to actively repress domestic criticism and has reportedly offered to host Russian missiles on its territory, sincere in its stated wish to improve relations with Europe and America?
Olga Kazulina is the daughter of political prisoner and former presidential candidate
Alyaksandr Kazulin, who was arrested in March 2006 and sentenced to 5 1/2 years of imprisonment for his political actions against the Lukashenko regime. She is a member of the Social Democratic Party and the commission “Freedom for Kazulin and All Political Prisoners.” Ms. Kazulina was the deputy director of the firm Alaktiv from 2005 until 2007, when she was fired after attending an opposition conference in Lithuania.
Alyaksandr Klaskouski is Director of Analytical Projects for the news agency BelaPAN and Editor-in-Chief of BelaPAN’s Elections website. He also runs a popular political blog for the e-weekly Nasha Niva and writes a column for Naviny.by. Mr. Klaskouski is a regular contributor to RFE/RL's Belarus Service and BelSat, a Warsaw-based satellite television channel. Both speakers are in the U.S. at the invitation of the International Republican Institute to participate in events marking International Human Rights Day.
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New York Times: Electoral Rot Nearby? The Russians Don’t See It
ZHODINO, Belarus — The voting monitor began his rounds on election day here at Polling Place No. 7. “Issues? Violations?” he asked the poll workers, glancing around like a casual sightseer. They said no, so he left.
The monitor, Kholnazar Makhmadaliyev, breezed from one polling site (“What’s up? Things O.K.?”) to another (“Everything fine here?”), shaking a lot of hands, offering abundant compliments and drinking brandy with this city’s mayor.
Such went Mr. Makhmadaliyev’s stint on a large observer mission led by the Kremlin that concluded that Belarus, a former Soviet republic and an ally of Russia, had conducted a “free, open and democratic” parliamentary election in late September.
The Kremlin monitors’ version of reality, though, clashed with the one described by a European security group, whose own monitors dismissed the election as a sham tainted by numerous shortcomings, not the least of which was vote rigging. The monitors dispatched by the Kremlin did not report anything like that. Nor did they raise concerns about Belarus’s security service, still called the K.G.B., which had exerted harsh pressure on the opposition, imprisoning several of its leaders over the last year and thwarting their campaigns. Or about state-controlled television broadcasts repeatedly branding opposition leaders as traitors.
Or, for that matter, about the final results: a sweep of every seat in the 110-member Parliament by supporters of President Alexander Lukashenko, often described as Europe’s last dictator.
The Kremlin under Vladimir Putin has sought to bolster authoritarian governments in the region that remain loyal, and these election monitoring teams — 400 strong in Belarus alone — are one of its newer innovations. They demonstrate the lengths to which the Kremlin will go to create the illusion of political freedom in Russia and other former Soviet republics, even though their structures of democracy have been hollowed out…
Read the full text of this article in New York Times.