Lukahsenko Faces a Crowded Field of Opponents

OpenDemocracy has an interesting piece by Mikhail Zakharov of, which takes a look at the Medvedev-Lukashenko spat – noting that the Kremlin is giving the President of Belarus much of the same treatment received by Viktor Yushchenko in the Ukraine in the lead up to the elections which shoved him out of office.

Elections in Belarus are scheduled for 19 December, and the current president has a full field of opponents. Besides Lukashenko, declared candidates include Viktor Tereshchenko, Chair of the Association for Small and Medium Enterprise; Vladimir Provalsky, an entrepreneur; Vladimir Neklyaev, director of the ‘Dvizhenie Vpered’ (‘Forward Movement’) research institute; Yaroslav Romanchuk, director of Strategy research centre; Sergei Ryzkkov, financial director of Vitebsk fruit and vegetable complex; Andrei Sannikov, a newspaper political commentator;  Alexei Mikhalevich, a legal consultant; businessman Dmitry Ussm, Grigory Kostusev, deputy director of a construction company; Grigory Kostusev, chair of the Liberal Democratic Party; Vitaly Rimashevsky, deputy chairman of “Christian Business Initiative”; Nikolai Statkevich,  leader of the Social Democratic party; Ivan Kulikov, head of a nuclear research lab; Petr Borisov, a pensioner; and Sergei Ivanov, currently unemployed.

Yaroslav Romanchuk was upbeat in a recent interview published on openDemocracy.He said: “Lukashenko is starting his presidential campaign with anapproval rating some 25 percentage points lower than the campaigns ofboth 2001 and 2006. And the chances of him getting those voters back arelimited, especially in context of the “cold war” he has decided to wagewith Russia, and the growing pressures in the economy. […] Lukashenkois losing the support of his core vote: those who voted for him forreasons of stability, security of wages and pensions, friendship withRussia, or because because “there was no one else to vote for”.  Onething is clear, Lukashenka will not win in the first round. For sure, hecan paint himself some fake percentage or other. Indeed, he’s beendoing this for some 15 years. But there is an obvious answer to such aturn of events.” (…)

Several of the presidential candidates have already beendeclared “Kremlin” candidates by experts. However, Moscow has not yetoutlined the conditions that would lead to an easing of the tension; ithas not yet explained what exactly it wants from Lukashenko. Far fromViktor Yushchenko’s misdemeanours, Lukashenko has only been accused ofbreaking his promises. While Moscow has also made it clear that it nolonger likes Lukashenko, this is not in itself enough to remove the”last dictator in Europe” from the throne. There needs to be much morepowerful arguments, and the marshalling of anti-Lukashenko forces andfeeling inside Belarus. Indeed, domestic problems — he problem of Moscowand its mayor — are likely to take precedence over the presidentialelections in Belarus. Pointedly, Lukashenko congratulated Yury Luzhkovon his 74th birthday, but demonstratively ignored Dmitry Medvedev’s 45thbirthday.