The current political situation in Belarus

Living in one of the worlds last dictatorships this is my point of view to the current political situation. Maybe it might be interesting for a neighbouring country as Sweden.

Since coming to power, president Lukashenka, who has never been part of old "communist" elites, has been installing a longterm dictatorship by destroying old legitimate elites. He intercepted their main issues - Fabian reforms and close cooperation with Russia - and took them to the limit.

These issues reflect cultural and historical values of the Belarussians and therefore have a real voter support. As such, even in absurd forms of returning to communist practices and uniting Belarus with Russia these issues evoke support rather than opposition.

New "nationalist" elites, which emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, are not legitimate and have no real voter support. Their main issues - liberal reforms and national state building - are doomed to failure due to cultural and historic reasons. Lukashenka, therefore, is not interested in getting rid of the current opposition which is overwhelmingly formed by new elites. Having a toothless opposition helps him to deceive the West about the anti-democratic and criminal nature of his regime.

The central cultural features of the Belarussians are that they think twice or even three or four times before any undertakings and that they are very stoic. It makes more feasible gradual evolutionary reforms rather than rapid revolutionary changes.

The main historical feature of the Belarussians is that they have been never oppressed for being Belarussians and that during last two centuries the Russians managed to create and propagate the myth about the eternal closeness of the two fraternal Slavonic peoples. As such, a nationalistic issues are not salient in Belarus, b Belarussian politics is Moscow-oriented. In other words, Moscow elects the Belarussian president.

It seems that the chief problem of the current political situation in Belarus is that perhaps only old elites can be the real opposition to the regime of Lukashenka. At the same time, old elites are not capable of introducing far reaching political and economic reforms. A further problem is that old and new elites are reluctant to cooperate because of the fundamental disagreement on many issues relating to the problems of the communist heritage and "Russia versus the West".

A possible opportunity of overcoming the above problems is to consolidate the both elites by supporting old elites by pressing Moscow to withdraw its support to Lukashenka. In this case, old elites can come back to power and sustain the country for a certain period of time allowing new elites to legitimate themselves and then put the country into a proper political and economic footing. A consensus between the elites may be reached by switching political discourse of the current opposition from ethnical and cultural nationalism to civic one as well as by persuading old elites that the West is their ally against the regime.

A major threat for this opportunity is that without having Russia involved into reforms in Belarus one cannot change the current situation. Russia however is not keen on having democratic and market-oriented, i.e. pro-Western, Belarus.

Furthermore, the West is reluctant to seriously disagree with Russia on its support to Lukashenka because it is more interested in reaching an agreement with Moscow on genuinely important for itself issues of defence and security.

Om författaren

Pavel Ovseiko

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Publicerad: 18 dec 2001 14:30


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