One of the political groups in the European Parliament has organised a Belarus week. An occasion to meet with opposition leaders and discuss their impressions of the current situation and plans for the future. Few points to give one an idea of the situation:
- 61% of the Belorussian population believe that elections are held in a democratic fashion
- International debt (especially to Russia) is reaching cosmic levels
- Few of prominent opposition politicians are imprisoned
- Recently "Parliament" has approved legislation for Internet censorship
- Press, TV and Radio is a mere tool of state propaganda
These facts are neither new, nor surprising and it still seems that Europe is ready to swallow it, or rather interest of the neighbouring EU countries does not make a shift in the policy of the European Union as a whole. Visa restrictions on high officials have not made a difference. Lukashenko is still in charge and seems to be willing to do his best to stay that way, preparing his son to take over.
What is the mood of the opposition politicians?
Opposition is united or wish to portray themselves being united. It reminds me of a sand castles during the storm... no matter how beautiful they look, they are extremely fragile. So they are. Milinkevich while being rational and peaceful in his rhetoric's is far from inspirational politician (probably that is why he leads the "united" opposition. Some say it is not good to have electoral lists prepared and political agenda not. Others claim that political agenda will appear only once freedoms are reinstated. However there seems to be an overarching agreement that opposition needs a "message". Hearing this word from politicians that do not speak or understand English, unintentionally made me smile. Message that can be understood and that can mobilise those that don't mind the "guy with moustache" in Minsk. Message that can make people within the administration consider whether in the long-term perspective Luka regime is such a safe bet?
More experienced politicians speak of the need to work hard and campaign before elections, while participating in them with united list. Young politicians sound much more militant, they speak of the need to boycott the elections and go for major street protests and civic dissent.
As a nation of brilliant chess players people analyse the moves that "enemy" will make before the polling day, there are a few:
- in the electoral districts were opposition has one united candidate, to nominate only independent candidates, that would not endorse the regime officially and like this undermine the claims of opposition that regime is pressuring them
- organise a referendum on the Russia - Belarus unified state and like this steal the thunder from legislature
- budget of the state medias was increased by 10 million US dollars on the electoral year, citizens get ready for praise the leader session 24/7
Finally, what Europe can do for Belarus?
Don't give up on Belarus. It is a country of 10 million Europeans that believe in European integration even if they appear to be on the other side of the fence. Help to maintain alternative media, provide free Internet points in the country, encourage cultural, educational exchanges, speak to Minsk and insist on the violations of HR, freedom of assembly, release of political prisoners. Don't give up on Belarus!