Sunday, October 18, 2020

Belarusian Protests Costing Lukashenka Support within State Structures, Lebedok Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 16 – Many people make the mistake of evaluating the Belarusian protests only in terms of the numbers of people who take part in the mass demonstrations, forgetting that the demonstrations reflect only part of popular anger and that they are having an impact on those who work for the state and are viewed as Lukashenka supporters.

            In fact, Belarusian analyst Yegor Lebedok says, the protests are shaking the system because they reflect broader attitudes and call into question for many in the regime the notion that it has legitimacy because the people back it (

            “The Belarusian protest,” he argues, “is not ‘the street’ but rather the transformation of Lukashenka’s one-man power from within.  People going into the street is only one of the processes which is now taking place.” Only Lukashenka and his supporters want to reduce the issue to the size of the demonstrations.

            In many respects, Lebedok continues, “the peaceful demonstrations work on people within Lukashenka’s system of power (of course, not on the most senior bureaucrats) and show that it isn’t drug addicts and enemies sent by the West but Belarusian citizens who are seeking honest elections.”

            The participation of normal people “is destroying the virtual bubble of existence of state employees, in which the demonstrators must be aggressive and a low social level.” The behavior of the demonstrators shows to everyone that that is not the case and thus the arguments they are making are taken far more seriously.

            “Now, the significance of peaceful protests for government employees is somewhat declining,” Lebedok argues. Other factors including Lukashenka’s increasingly obvious dependence on Russia’s Vladimir Putin are having a larger impact, “especially on younger leaders of the middle rank.” And the regime is working hard to retain their loyalty.

            “But even state employees find it difficult to view Lukashenka as a defender of the sovereignty of Belarus when he immediately runs to Putin for defense.” They fully understand that “the defense of sovereignty without a foundation in the people is a fiction” not a reality, the analyst continues.

            “The difference between the Belarusian protest now from the Ukrainian in 2014 or the Kyrgyz today is that it is not only a counter-measure but a constructive process, involving the formation of a civil society and a growing demand for the independence of Belarus” and involves not just those who take to the streets but also those in the regime.

            To be sure, Lebedok concludes, this process will take a long time and it will achieve these goals “not in weeks or months” but rather longer. But it will not end even if the numbers of protesters decline because the issues they have raised with society and the state as a whole will continue to percolate.

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