MOSCOW. Alexei Makarkin, deputy
director general of the Center for Political Technologies, for RIA Novosti.)
elections in Belarus demonstrate the peculiarities of a political model that is
becoming an alternative to classic democracy in different countries. This model
advances leaders that appeal to their population – first of all, the poorest
groups – and eventually confront the Western world. Alexander Lukashenko
preaches the cult of strong leadership, sticks to pronounced populism and firmly
rejects globalization ideology and institutions. Nevertheless, elections are
held, a multi-party system exists and the parliament is active.
But Belarus is situated in
Europe, where completely different political principles are accepted. Poland and
Lithuania have long been the backbone of the Belarussian opposition; recently,
Ukraine has joined them. Moreover, the European Union and the United States
sympathize with Lukashenko's opponents. Belarus
does not have oil whose windfalls may be used to "feed" the regime's
supporters, so the fact that Lukashenko has been in office for 12 years proves
the great political talent of this provincially looking person, who is sometimes
called "batka", the Belarussian for "father".
is getting active of late. Part of the republic's former elite is staking on
Alexander Kozulin, who has been rector of Belarussian University. Yet most of
the incumbent president's opponents – from Communists to liberals – have
united around Alexander Milinkevich, a physicist and public figure who has been
relatively unknown among voters until recently.
problem is that he must necessarily win in the first round. If he falls a few
percent short of the absolute victory, his regime may erode between the rounds,
while many of his supporters, including state officials, will be demoralized.
But if his victory is announced in the first round, opposition will attempt a
color revolution under the pretext of protecting democracy, accusing the
authorities of rigging the election. In this case it will be an adjusted version
of the events in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine.
the receipt of fending off the revolution proposed by Lukashenko: a preemptive
strike against the opposition in order to discredit it in the eyes of the
population and to disorganize it, turning political opponents into plotters. In
so doing, Lukashenko is demonstrating that he is no Kuchma or Shevardnadze. His
task is to reduce the potential number of people participating in post-election
protests by any means. He could not care less about the Western opinions of his
political practices, and he is ready to take the toughest action to remain in
power. Obviously, the receipt can be applied only in case of the authorities'
total control over leading mass media – the collective organizers and
propagandists (as seasoned revolutionary Vladimir Lenin called them), and this
is what we are witnessing currently in Belarus.
may succeed once again. All the more so as his isolation is not total: Russia
supports him as a partner in the Union State. Its choice has nothing to do with
its affinity to the Belarussian leader, who, despite his pro-Russian statements,
is a very difficult ally – for example, the introduction of a single currency
with the emission center in Moscow has been discussed for several years to no
avail. Decision-making on the creation of the Union State's governing bodies is
also far from easy.
Lukashenko is important for Russia not so much as a pro-Russian figure, but as
an anti-Western one. His reputation makes him unacceptable for the European
Union, even if he should become an advocate of European integration. This means
that as long as he remains Belarussian president, his country will not withdraw
from the union with Russia, and will not join NATO. The Baltic countries joined
the Alliance in 2004, and at present Ukraine's Orange leadership is seriously
thinking of Atlantic integration. With such a background, Belarus seems the only
Russian outpost in the West, which is actively cooperating with Moscow in the
defense sphere, including air defense.
Russia's purely pragmatic attitude towards the situation in Belarus and its
hopes for the stability of the Lukashenko regime. These forecasts may well come
true at the forthcoming elections, but this does not mean that the regime will
not face any risks later. On the one hand, opposition is becoming increasingly
active: at the previous election its representative looked like a meek outsider,
but this time we are witnessing a real political struggle. On the other hand,
the Belarussian regime, as any pronounced personalized regime, depends on the
fate of its leader, who does not have a successor and does not provide for power
transfer, even if managed and controlled. -0-