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By Sean — 12 years ago
Boris Kagarlitsky’s analysis of the Belarusian elections is a breath of fresh air at a time when what exactly Belarus is has been so muddled by the ideological dueling between East and West. I encourage readers to check out his column “Nine Lives of the Belarusian Cat”. Here are some excerpts.
On why Lukashenko won:
The Russian and the Western mass media have split up into two camps: fervent partisans of the Belarusian regime and its furious enemies. With all that, either of the camps wouldn’t even make a guess, what this regime looks like, and especially, what kind of opposition that is.
Unlike Russia or Kazakhstan, Belarus is not rich in natural resources, therefore, it cannot export raw materials. Unlike Ukraine, it does not have siderurgy. Its domestic market is quite limited as well, for the country is not big. In the times of the USSR it served as the Soviet economy’s “assembly line”. In other words, only the developed processing industry will keep the Belarusian economy floating, given it produces goods of high enough quality to be exported to the former Soviet Republics and anywhere else if possible.
Implementing Russian model of privatization will result in an immeasurable disaster, against which all horrors of Neoliberal reforms implemented by Egor Gaidar would seem just a joke. The entire country would just die out. The more relaxed Ukrainian version wouldn’t work out either, due to the shortage of the resources available. To stay alive, the Belarusian economy needed guaranteed secure and modernized industry, simultaneously keeping wages low; otherwise, the Belarusian enterprises will not be competitive on the exterior market. Holding the wages and trying to avoid the collapse could only be made possible, preserving the social security protection, which inevitably handed the control over economy to the state, making it act as an investor, a proprietor, responsible for the healthy functioning of the industries, and as a distribution system. The Soviet type of economy has slowly been modifying in Belarus into an East Asia type of “export economy”, though with local flavor: not a tiger, of course, but a cat. The “Belarusian cat” model predetermined Lukashenka’s political endurance. Bat’ka was doing what the society expected him to. He did it roughly, undemocratically, enjoying support of the bureaucratic structures, inherited from the Soviet times. In return, he got the unlimited power for himself and his team.
And on why the opposition made little headway among the population:
The opposition was rejected by the Belarusian population in the first place because it hasn’t come up with something inspirational to suggest. Liberal programs and promises to prosper in the European house were nothing but bluffing. Paradoxically, what did add some weight the opposition was its persecution by the authorities. It raised the opposition’s moral prestige, stirred up sympathy. It was not enough to compensate for the narrow social basis, though. And the narrower the social basis is, the more significance is attached to the foreign sponsors. The attempts to repeat Kyiv Maidan in Minsk failed, as would other similar activity. Dumb Russian bureaucrats and mediocre journalists may of course trust the omnipotent political technologies. In practice they work out only under certain conditions and may not be thoughtlessly replicated. Lukashenka didn’t even bother to break up the demonstration. The cold did a better job than police squads would have done.
Neither the current opposition, nor its updated version, which will undoubtedly be created after the elections, will ever seize power. This absolutely must not lead to thinking that the future of the Belarusian regime is cloudless. Lukashenka as a political phenomenon was produced by specific circumstances back in mid-1990s. Since then, the situation has changed and keeps changing. The survival matter is no longer the case, but the further development issues will eventually become more and more acute. Lukashenka’s new term will not just be another one in a row.
According to Kagarlitsky, Lukashenko’s lease on life might begin to wear thin once Belarusian bureaucrats look to get a bigger piece of the pie they’ve only had a taste from. This, not an opposition, will force Lukashenko to proceed with more privatization. If not then, Kagarlitsky concludes,
One way or the other, the political crisis is inevitable, perhaps, resulting in a “color” revolution, conducted (like other color revolutions) not by the opposition, but the part of the ruling elites, determined to make changes. This is exactly how the story in Ukraine unfolded.
I highly encourage reading the rest.Post Views: 87
By Sean — 11 years ago
If you want to know anything about the political economy of CIS countries, there is no better place to turn than the Financial Times. Always erudite, FT’s special reports provide a broad evaluation of the region’s economy, politics, culture, and society often without the usual ideological claptrap about the incompatibility between capitalism and authoritarianism. Take for example the business daily’s most recent special on Kazakhstan.
I think that FT understands the essence of post-Soviet politics as a combination between one man rule, family circles, elite clans, and bureaucratic pressures. There is no total one man rule, only a network of alliances between competing elites. At the center stands, in the case of
, Nursulatan Nazarbayev, who parcels out power and pieces of the political and economic pie to maintain the integrity of the state. I think this description of Nazarbayev’s power is spot on: Kazakhstan
The canny Mr. Nazarbayev has built an authoritarian regime with greater skill than most of his regional counterparts, cleverly balancing competing interests. He has promoted the influence and wealth of his family, not least his three daughters and their husbands, but he has appeared to be aware of the dangers of alienating others and provoking international criticism by betting everything on the bloodline. Since the 2005 election, Mr. Nazarbayev has begun to address the succession question by encouraging the development of institutions to which the presidency could devolve some power. In key reforms this year, he increased the role of parliament and local governments. Parliamentary elections are to be held in August to legitimize the changes.
The question is whether post-Nazarbayev
can remain as unified. Like Putin, Nazarbayev has become his own worse enemy. He’s successfully tamed the elite by becoming its center but by doing so he has perhaps created a system that cannot survive without him. KazakhstanTags: Nursulatan Nazarbayev|Kazakhstan|Financial Times|CIS|post-Soviet politics|Russia|Putin|political economyPost Views: 166
By Sean — 4 years ago
Guest post by William Risch
In a December 25 interview with the magazine Foreign Policy, heavyweight world boxing champion Vitaly Klychko explained the significance of Ukraine’s Euromaidan protest movement to Belgrade-based journalist Harriet Salem: “Now people in this square [Kyiv’s Maidan] understand that they have power in their hands and the opportunity to change the situation in our country. Our country is very young, and this is a very important step, that every citizen is aware that his future depends just on him.” Klychko, true to his boxer image, advocated a knock-out blow against President Viktor Yanukovych’s regime: “We understand that to make real reforms, we must topple the whole system.”
Klychko was not the only one claiming to stand with the people. On December 15, after visits to Kyiv by European Union foreign policy commissioner Catherine Ashton and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, U.S. Senators John McCain and Chris Murphy spoke to the Maidan. As reported by the Washington Post, Murphy told the crowd, “You are making history. If you are successful, the United States will stand with you every step of the way.”
I was at that rally. The senators’ voices, interpreted by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Borys Tarasiuk, were muddled. While I filmed Murphy and McCain, fellow historians with me ignored the speech. They discussed with a local resident contested 2012 parliamentary elections being rerun that very day in five districts.
Were these politicians really with the people? On December 16, I took part in a march on the Central Elections Commission. About 150-200 people protested the results of the special parliamentary elections, claiming they had been falsified. Speakers said Klychko was going to speak, but in the end, he didn’t show up. The night of December 17-18, Klychko spoke to the Maidan’s “Night Watch,” an all-night disco and political rally aimed at keeping police forces from breaking up the Maidan. He gave a stirring speech about the hard work it takes to realize one’s dreams, and then he left.
The night of December 19-20, I volunteered to watch over the Maidan’s barricades. Warming up to a makeshift bonfire in freezing temperatures, I spent the whole night talking with other guards about why they were there. One man, 38 year-old Serhiy from Poltava, said he had lost his small store to bank debts, his wife had left him, and he was unemployed. As we debated over what Serhiy should do – get a lawyer, find another job, or emigrate to to America – the Maidan’s hourly singing of the Ukrainian national anthem began. Everyone suddenly stopped arguing. They tood up and silently watched the musicians performing on the large TV screen. Across the Maidan’s barricades, others joined us in silently saluting the anthem or singing. In that moment, no foreign dignitary, no celebrity like Klychko, spoke for people like Serhiy. If anyone, it was us, the people of the Maidan, who stood with him.Post Views: 151