Latest Articles

Shalini Randeria, Anna Wójcik

Mobilizing law for solidarity

An interview with Shalini Randeria

Legal transnationalization takes place at different paces, setting human rights against trade and property protections, argues social anthropologist Shalini Randeria. The instrumentalization of solidarity by nascent ethno-nationalism must be resisted at the political not the legal level. [ more ]

Ira Katznelson, Agnieszka Rosner

Solidarity after Machiavelli

Camille Leprince, Lynn SK

Portraits of three women...

Ilaria Morani

Street art, power and patronage

Eurozine Review

Eurozine Review

The destruction of society

'Osteuropa' rages at the destruction of Russian society; 'Merkur' delves into the history of Eurasianism; 'Vikerkaar' is sanguine about the decline of universalism; 'New Eastern Europe' has divided opinions about borders; 'Ord&Bild' finds humanism at sea; 'Il Mulino' debates the difficulties of democracy in Italy and the West; 'Blätter' seeks responses to the whitelash; 'Mittelweg 36' historicizes pop and protest; 'Critique & Humanism' looks at Bulgarian youth cultures; 'Res Publica Nowa' considers labour; and 'Varlik' examines the origins of literary modernism in Turkey.

Eurozine Review

The ordinary state of emergency

Eurozine Review

The Lilliput syndrome

Eurozine Review

The violent closet?

Eurozine Review

Peak democracy?

My Eurozine

If you want to be kept up to date, you can subscribe to Eurozine's rss-newsfeed or our Newsletter.

Share |

The Belarusian election: Who best learnt from the Orange Revolution?

Unlike the Orange Revolutionaries, the Belarusian opposition lacked the extra crowds who would mobilize for their right to mobilize. The Lukashenko regime, on the other hand, made effective use of "political technology" alongside "administrative technology" to ensure election victory. But though Lukashenko may have won another victory, he hasn't succeeded in abolishing politics, writes Andrew Wilson.

Related articles

Mykola Riabchuk
Is the West serious about the "last European dictatorship"?
Ingo Petz
Awakening through music. The cultural anti-elite in Belarus.
Hans-Georg Wieck
Democracy promotion at a dead end. Europe is failing in Belarus
Eurozine News Item
Minsk journal "Arche" suspended
Nerijus Prekevicius
One president, three challengers
Olga Timokhina
"Our children led us onto the streets". Notes of an ordinary person
Andrew Wilson
The Belarusian election: Who best learnt from the Orange Revolution?
Eurozine News Item
Independent Belarusian newspaper "Nasha Niva" to close
Eurozine News Item
Editor Andrej Dynko released
Andrej Dynko
Sacrificial therapy. Letter from a prison in Minsk
Eurozine News Item
"Arche" editor arrested in Minsk
Andrej Dynko
Between brotherly Russia and peaceful Europe
Eurozine News Item
What chances for a Denim Revolution?
Alexandre Billette, Jean-Arnault Dérens
How Belarus elects Lukashenko
Alexandre Billette, Jean-Arnault Dérens
The nation as side effect of opposition
Stasys Katauskas
Belarus: Hopes for democracy and doubts about national identity
Eurozine News Item
"Arche" confiscated at Belarusian-Lithuanian border
Vital Silitski
An election turned inside out
Andrei Kazakevich
Orientalism and the "casus belarus"
Nerijus Prekevicius
The Belarusian opposition. Preparation for the presidential campaign of 2006
Nerijus Prekevicius
"Sovetskaya Belorussiya" and propaganda discourse
Andrew WIlson
Will the Orange spark ignite in Belarus?
Andrew Wilson
How to have become a nationalist
Yuri Chavusaw
Revolution and anti-revolution in the post-Soviet space
Piotra Rudkowski
The national language debate in Belarus
Nelly Bekus-Goncharova
An invisible wall: The hidden factor of Belarusian reality
Nelly Bekus-Goncharova
The well-dressed people of Belarus
Who has best learnt the lessons of the recent spate of "coloured revolutions" in the former Soviet space – Belarus's would-be "denim revolutionaries" or Lukashenko's counter-revolutionary technologists? It is difficult to give a scorecard from the popular vote in 2006. In the absence of a reliable parallel count or independent exit poll, it seems impossible to judge whether either side has really done better than in 2001. Officially, the three opposition candidates won 11.8 per cent, less than two candidates' 17.1 per cent in 2001. IISEPS's (Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies) poll in 2001 gave Hancharyk 32 per cent, Milinkevich's team in 2006 estimate between 25 and 30 per cent.

Some preliminary comment can be made about tactics and strategic context, however. First, authoritarian leaders can deliver public goods. Whether dependent on Russian subsidy or not, the Belarusian economy has grown impressively between 2001 and 2006. Many voters clearly also value Lukashenko's version of law and order and his promise of a "quiet, comfortable home". The Ukrainian regime in 2004 had suffered years of scandal; Lukashenko still has a solid base of support. Yanukovych stole a victory; Lukashenko seems merely to have exaggerated his.

It was therefore always going to be difficult for the Belarusian opposition to replicate the tactics of "strategic non-violence" borrowed from Gene Sharp et al. They got many things right: especially avoiding the kind of violent protest or direct action that would have given the authorities the excuse they were looking for to crack down. That is, crack down earlier. The opposition also schooled their supporters well in how to spot and avoid agents provocateurs. Gene Sharp advocates identifying and engaging the weak points that any regime will have. It is not money, he argues, but a change in mindset that is crucial to bringing about change. Moral confidence is an opposition's most important asset, especially in encouraging the thousands of foot soldiers, who support any establishment, to defect. But in Belarus it was never clear that the regime lacked confidence. The sense of moral outrage at Lukashenko's suppression of democracy was confined to opposition circles. The Orange Revolution succeeded because it brought hundreds of thousands of ordinary people on to the streets. The Belarusian opposition lacked an obvious hinterland of support – the extra crowds who would add their weight to demonstrations not just because they backed Milinkevich or opposed Lukashenko's version of the national idea, but who would mobilize for their right to mobilize, who would protect the general principle of a free and fair vote. According to a Democratic Initiatives poll in 2005, only 30 per cent of Ukrainian protestors took to the streets a year earlier to support Yushchenko's candidacy; 59 per cent were protesting against election fraud.

Strategic non-violence, in other words, assumes a regime can be pressured at its weak points. Lukashenko's regime doesn't have many. At least not yet – these may develop over time. Arguably, the immediate post-election period was always going to be more important than the election itself. Lukashenko may want to return to "normal". The opposition must continue the progress it has made, and Western, particularly European, support must be more decisive than during the campaign itself. The EU must develop a policy of firm but constructive engagement. At the moment, it is barely engaged at all.

Lukashenko's regime seems to have better absorbed the lessons of the Orange Revolution. The authorities prevented any meaningful parallel count or exit poll that might have served to set off an "electoral revolution". It may have been obvious to many that Lukashenko's vote was padded, but the opposition was not able to show with any convincing proof that he had won less than 50 per cent. Lukashenko maintained regime unity and the loyalty of the security services. They in turn kept protest numbers to a minimum by simple practical measures like cancelling trains to Minsk, and by maintaining a climate of fear. The Ukrainian protestors soon lost their fear of a clampdown and went on the offensive. The Belarusian authorities made sure the threat was palpable and real. On the other hand, they avoided the kind of heavy-handed action that could have given the protests extra stimulus. They arrested people leaving the square, so they could be picked off in small groups. They prevented practical supplies (food, blankets) from being brought in large enough amounts to support the protests. And they made sure the election was held in cold March weather rather than the summer.

It is somewhat surprising that the opposition did not ensure permanent occupation of their site. Had the demonstration been a sufficient threat, they gifted the authorities sufficient opportunities to recapture the ground. The authorities also prevented any snowball effect by isolating the protest with a domestic media blackout. The presence of international media was also kept to a minimum.

Finally, the regime hedged its bets by also using "political technology" in alliance with its "administrative technology". Siarhei Haidukevich was again used to fake the politics of protest and split the opposition vote. Questions might also be asked about Aliaksandr Kozulin – in particular whether he is designed to become a "controlled opposition" in replace of a real one.

Russia of course played a decisive role, once Putin had signalled his support for Lukashenko in December. In 2001, however, similar support was predicated on Lukashenko's promise to open doors for Russian business, which wasn't kept. It seems reasonable to assume that the Kremlin will have obtained a firmer deal this time – so the fate of Beltransgas will be indicative. In this and other respects, Lukashenko may have won another (less) "elegant victory", but he has not succeeded in abolishing politics. There are plenty of interesting pointers ahead.


Published 2006-04-19

Original in English
First published in Arche 4/2006

Contributed by Arche
© Andrew Wilson/Arche
© Eurozine

Focal points     click for more

Debating solidarity in Europe
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, questions of inequality and solidarity have become intertwined. Over the past year, however, questions of solidarity have also been central in connection to the treatment of refugees and migrants. [more]

Ukraine: Beyond conflict stories
Follow the critical, informed and nuanced voices that counter the dominant discourse of crisis concerning Ukraine. A media exchange project linking Ukrainian independent media with "alternative" media in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Greece. [more]

Russia in global dialogue
In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, intellectual interaction between Russia and Europe has intensified. It has not, however, prompted a common conversation. The focal point "Russia in global dialogue" seeks to fuel debate on democracy, society and the legacy of empire. [more]

Ukraine in European dialogue
Post-revolutionary Ukrainian society displays a unique mix of hope, enthusiasm, social creativity, collective trauma of war, radicalism and disillusionment. Two years after the country's uprising, the focal point "Ukraine in European dialogue" takes stock. [more]

Culture and the commons
Across Europe, citizens are engaging in new forms of cultural cooperation while developing alternative and participatory democratic practices. The commons is where cultural and social activists meet a broader public to create new ways of living together. [more]

2016 Jean Améry Prize collection
To coincide with the awarding of the 2016 Jean Améry Prize for European essay writing, Eurozine publishes essays by authors nominated for the prize, including by a representative selection of Eurozine partner journals. [more]

The politics of privacy
The Snowden leaks and the ensuing NSA scandal made the whole world debate privacy and data protection. Now the discussion has entered a new phase - and it's all about policy. A focal point on the politics of privacy: claiming a European value. [more]

Beyond Fortress Europe
The fate of migrants attempting to enter Fortress Europe has triggered a new European debate on laws, borders and human rights. A focal point featuring reportage alongside articles on policy and memory. With contributions by Fabrizio Gatti, Seyla Benhabib and Alessandro Leogrande. [more]

Vacancies at Eurozine     click for more

Eurozine is seeking an Online Editor and Social Media Manager for its office in Vienna.

Preferred starting date: February 2017.
Applications deadline: 31 January 2017.

Conferences     click for more

Eurozine emerged from an informal network dating back to 1983. Since then, European cultural magazines have met annually in European cities to exchange ideas and experiences. Around 100 journals from almost every European country are now regularly involved in these meetings.
Mobilizing for the Commons
The 27th European Meeting of Cultural Journals
Gdańsk, 4-6 November 2016
The Eurozine conference 2016 in Gdańsk framed the general topic of solidarity with a focus on mobilizing for the commons. The event took place in the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk and thus linked contemporary debate to the history of a broad, non-violent, anti-communist social movement which has started in the city's shipyard in 1980. [more]

Support Eurozine     click for more

If you appreciate Eurozine's work and would like to support our contribution to the establishment of a European public sphere, see information about making a donation.

Eurozine BLOG

On the Eurozine BLOG, editors and Eurozine contributors comment on current affairs and events. What's behind the headlines in the world of European intellectual journals?
In memoriam: Ales Debeljak (1961-2016)
On 28 January 2016, Ales Debeljak died in a car crash in Slovenia. He will be much missed as an agile and compelling essayist, a formidable public speaker and a charming personality. [more]

Time to Talk     click for more

Time to Talk, a network of European Houses of Debate, has partnered up with Eurozine to launch an online platform. Here you can watch video highlights from all TTT events, anytime, anywhere.
Neda Deneva, Constantina Kouneva, Irina Nedeva and Yavor Siderov
Does migration intensify distrust in institutions?
How do migration and institutional mistrust relate to one another? As a new wave of populism feeds on and promotes fears of migration, aggrandising itself through the distrust it sows, The Red House hosts a timely debate with a view to untangling the key issues. [more]

Editor's choice     click for more

Jürgen Habermas, Michaël Foessel
Critique and communication: Philosophy's missions
Decades after first encountering Anglo-Saxon perspectives on democracy in occupied postwar Germany, Jürgen Habermas still stands by his commitment to a critical social theory that advances the cause of human emancipation. This follows a lifetime of philosophical dialogue. [more]

Literature     click for more

Karl Ove Knausgård
Out to where storytelling does not reach
To write is to write one's way through the preconceived and into the world on the other side, to see the world as children can, as fantastic or terrifying, but always rich and wide-open. Karl Ove Knausgård on creating literature. [more]

Jonathan Bousfield
Growing up in Kundera's Central Europe
Jonathan Bousfield talks to three award-winning novelists who spent their formative years in a Central Europe that Milan Kundera once described as the kidnapped West. It transpires that small nations may still be the bearers of important truths. [more]

Literary perspectives
The re-transnationalization of literary criticism
Eurozine's series of essays aims to provide an overview of diverse literary landscapes in Europe. Covered so far: Croatia, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Hungary. [more]

Debate series     click for more

Europe talks to Europe
Nationalism in Belgium might be different from nationalism in Ukraine, but if we want to understand the current European crisis and how to overcome it we need to take both into account. The debate series "Europe talks to Europe" is an attempt to turn European intellectual debate into a two-way street. [more]

Multimedia     click for more
Multimedia section including videos of past Eurozine conferences in Vilnius (2009) and Sibiu (2007). [more]

powered by