Tensions in Belarus mount as elections approach. The drama is reaching a fever pitch. Arrests of opposition members and activists have increased in the last few days. Now RFE/RL is reporting that over 20 members of opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich, including his key aide Anatol Lyabedzka has been arrested. The EU is threatening sanctions. And Washington, as if it has any credibility in these matters, has condemned the arrests. Now the Belarus KGB is accusing the US and Georgia of backing a coup. As one can see from doing a Google search for news on Belarus, the media is flooded with stories.
However, for the life of me I can’t figure out what all this means. We know that the elections will be rigged. We know that there is an opposition that is being unjustly labeled terrorists and are victims of repression. We know that Lukashenka is an authoritarian thug that rules through fear and intimidation. What we don’t know is how real the opposition is. Do they have a chance? It seems from scant reporting on this question is that they don’t, but, in my opinion, that doesn’t mean they should stop trying.
At this point I am more interested in what makes Belarus tick beyond Lukashenka’s rule by terror. Thankfully, Siarhej Karol gives some information on the Belarus economy. I personally like the way Kommersant has put it:
Maybe the situation can be summed up as the regime of Alexander Lukashenko will exist in Belarus just as long as the myth of Alexander Lukashenko the kind, wise, strong leader who embodies the ideal politician. That is the leader who manages to increase wages and pensions, gets the country cheap gas and doesn’t let them close the factories down. It is an easily understandable image in overwhelmingly patriarchal and isolated Belarus, similar to the image of a folk hero and the best guarantee that the majority will again reelect “Pops” president. As long as Belarusian politics remains mythological at its core, no opposition to Lukashenko will matter. That is why it is silly to go to the barricades to overthrow the political order. First they have to overthrow the myth.
On a final note, for excellent coverage in blogosphere on Belarus, I highly recommend br23 blog.