Nerijus Prekevicius

is a fellow of Södertörn University College at Stockholm University.


One president, three challengers

Assessing Belarusian election politics

To observers of Belarus, the landslide victory of President Lukashenko in the March elections seemed irreconcilable with reports of intimidation of the opposition. How could the electorate of a modern state bordering on Europe have voted so resoundingly in favour of an autocrat? From there it was a short step for many outside Belarus to conclude that Belarusians are satisfied with the security that Lukashenko’s controlled economy offers them; and that Western powers, irked by the obstacle Lukashenko presents to neo-liberal geostrategy, promote the pro-Western Alexander Milinkevich. The Belarusian opposition was thus discredited via a detour through an argument that was no more concerned with cultural and political factors within Belarus than were hopes for a “colour revolution” that would move elsewhere once the euphoria subsided. In an article written shortly after the Belarusian election, discourse analyst Nerijus Prekevicius looks at why Lukashenko’s policies won him votes, while those of Milinkevich and the other opposition candidates lacked mass appeal, “despite” their respective content.

The Belarusian opposition

Preparation for the presidential campaign of 2006

On 16 October 2005, the Belarusian democratic opposition, the Congress of the Democratic Forces, launched its 2006 election campaign with the “Day of Solidarity”. The protest action involved lighting candles in darkened rooms in order to demonstrate support for “disappeared” opposition members. But despite its good intentions, is this kind of protest the best way to go about gaining support from floating voters? The election manifesto also contains some ill-judged rhetoric, including unlikely promises and revolutionary fervour. An outside observer offers constructive criticism of the Belarusian opposition.

Whether depicting the US as the pariah of international politics, Belarus as a leading player in the world community, or the EU as a sinking ship, the Belarusian state newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya plays fast and loose with the facts. A discourse analysis shows that over a period of just one month in 2005, the Orange Revolutionaries are depicted as rioters, NGOs are accused of sponsoring Vladimir Putin’s overthrow, Jean Marie Le Pen described as “insightful”, and the Belarusian rouble declared to be strong. This is propaganda at its crudest, writes the author.

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