‘Last Dictator’ Keeps Firm Grip on Power

The most recent allegations add a theater of the absurd element to what has otherwise been a somewhat dark campaign. Charter 97, an independent Web site devoted to news of Belarus, reported today that a rally of gay and lesbian groups expected to be held in Gomel on Saturday was actually the work of a KGB agent working on government orders to discredit the opposition.

Lukashenko has already tried that, charging that Goncharik was being funded by Western governments seeking to destabilize the nation.

Stability has been Lukashenko's one gift to Belarus. While pensioners and state employees such as teachers, miners, police and soldiers have gone months at a time without receiving their pay in neighboring Ukraine, salaries in Belarus may be meager, but they are regular.

Fleeing Stability

While Russia and Ukraine have suffered through economic turmoil and social unrest, Lukashenko has kept his landlocked country stable, secure — and to much of the younger generation, stifling. There has been virtually no foreign investment, despite the fact that the country is relatively free of the organized crime that has troubled its neighbors.

State statistics indicate that the number of Belarusians who emigrate each year has tripled since Lukashenko took office. It is believed the actual number of people who fled last year could be several times higher than the roughly 5,000 reported by the Labor Ministry.

Outside of the capital of Minsk, the country seems to be inhabited primarily by children and old people, and there are few signs of a youth culture.

There may be few discos or nightclubs, but one sign of Belarusian youth that is widely visible is the graffiti of Zubr (Bison), a group that continues to stage acts of civil disobedience despite the arrests and harassment of its members.

Finding opponents of the 47-year-old former collective farm director isn't hard, even in Gomel, a city that seems all but unchanged since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the opposition is more often than not conveyed in a roll of the eyes, a despairing, disparaging laugh, or a dismissing gesture of the hand.

And the expectation is that however the votes are cast, they will wind up adding up to another term for Lukashenko.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...