Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Minsk Paradox: Biggest Defenders of Belarusian Independence are Biggest Opponents of Lukashenka

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 6 – One of the most striking paradoxes of Belarusian politics is that the people most passionately committed to the continuing independence of Belarus against Kremlin hopes to annex it are at one and the same time the most passionate opponents of Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

            That means that in the current situation, the pro-Western, democratic opposition and the authoritarian president are on the same side of the line in the most important fight in the republic but that neither can fully support the other because the divisions that have grown over the last 25 years make that virtually impossible.

            This divide was highlighted today when hundreds of Belarusians assembled in Minsk nominally to take part in an election demonstration but in fact to show their opposition to any plans for the future “integration” of Belarus into the Russian Federation (belsat.eu/ru/news/statkevich-severinets-materi-328-predvybornyj-miting-v-minske/ and belsat.eu/ru/in-focus/oppozitsionery-prizyvayut-gotovitsya-k-zashhite-nezavisimosti/).

            The Minsk meeting was ostensibly the final campaign rally for Valentina Trotskaya, a candidate of the Narodna gromada party, but in contrast to earlier such meetings outside of the capital, it focused on the issue of the defense of independence rather than any other aspect of her program.

            Opposition leader Nikolay Statkevich said that Belarusians must with one voice speak about the defense of the independence of Belarus because “Lukashenka is negotiating with Putin about the conditions of its surrender.”

            Pavel Severinets, the vice president of the opposition Belarusian Christian Democratic Party, also addressed the crowd. He said that “it is necessary to speak about the threat to independence, to be ready to defend independence and when, on December will be signed these shameful documents, it is necessary that everyone come out” in defense of the country.

            Few of those taking part in this meeting have confidence that the upcoming parliamentary elections in Lukashenka’s Belarus will be any more “free and fair” than those he has overseen in the past; and at the end of the demonstration, party activists said they would not participate and burned their registration documents. 

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