Election Intrigue in Belarus

by Stephen Gowans Sunday, Mar. 19, 2006 at 1:35 AM

So popular is Lukashenko, that the Los Angeles Times acknowledged that even his "fiercest opponents don't question the accuracy of independent polls that rate him the most popular politician in this country."

The efforts of Western powers to overthrow Belarus' Lukashenko government will culminate in rallies planned for Sunday night in Minsk to protest the outcome of the presidential election Lukashenko is sure to win, not because the election will be rigged, but because Lukashenko is by far the most popular candidate.

Polls carried out as recently as last month, paid for by the International Republican Institute, the US taxpayer funded foreign policy arm of the Republican Party, show that support for the US-backed candidate, Aleksandr Milinkevich is "in the single digits," (1) while over half of voters back Lukashenko.

A January Gallup/Baltic Surveys poll found that 55 percent of voters planned to vote for Lukashenko, while only 17 percent planned to mark their ballot for the West's favored candidate.

So popular is Lukashenko, that the Los Angeles Times acknowledged that even his "fiercest opponents don't question the accuracy of independent polls that rate him the most popular politician in this country." (2)

That is, until now.

Milinkevich, whose campaign is being run by Terry Nelson, the national political director of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign (3) says the election "result has already been decided." (4)

This is part of a strategy to engineer a color revolution in Belarus, following the same script used in Ukraine and Georgia, to oust pro-Russian governments there. According to the strategy, election results will be declared invalid, followed by members of a Western-funded youth group spilling into the streets in a planned "spontaneous" uprising, demanding the government's resignation.

Last April 21st, Condoleezza Rice met with anti-Lukashenko groups in Lithuania, promising them money and demanding they coalesce around a single candidate (Milinkevich). "Rice's meeting," noted the Washington Post, "appeared to be aimed at preparing opposition officials for the elections, which Rice said would be an excellent opportunity to challenge the government." (5)

Up until the last few days, anyone following media accounts of the campaign would have learned that "Mr. Lukashenko's opponents seem not to be running an election campaign, as much as they are trying to organize an uprising" (6) and that Milinkevich "is campaigning not for the presidency but for an uprising." (7)

However, now that the election is upon us, the tone of the coverage has changed. Gone are stories about polling results that show Lukashenko to be miles ahead of Milinkevich. Now, warnings are issued. The election will be "manipulated, as expected." (8)

Nonsense. With his polling numbers in the single digits, the unpopular Milinkevich has no hope of winning the presidency, except by following the plans laid out for him last April by Rice.

Central to these plans is the youth group Khopits, modeled after similar youth groups put together by Western powers to bring down governments in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. Khopits gets its money from the US National Endowment for Democracy, its British equivalent, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and the Foreign Ministry of Germany, with "cash smuggled into Belarus in small amounts." (9)

Khopits' goal: To fill the streets after the elections results are announced, denouncing them as fixed, and demanding that Lukashenko step down.

Why does the West want Lukashenko to go? For the same reason Belarus' voters want him to stay. The economy.

Roughly 80 percent of Belarus' industry remains in state hands, the government "pursues a policy of pervasive state involvement in the economy," resists privatization, hinders foreign investment, and follows "active policies of important suppression and export promotion." (10)

The result is that under Lukashenko's tutelage, Belarus has become "a miniature version of the Soviet Union itself" (11) - hardly the kind of place to set hearts aflutter in the boardrooms of New York, London and Frankfurt.

Yet, however much Lukashenko's government makes investors and transnationals see red, both literally and figuratively, Lukashenko has "presided over a continual increase in real wages for several years, culminating in a 24 percent rise over the past 12 months." (12)

"He has also cut (Belarus's value added tax), brought down inflation, halved the number of people in poverty in the past seven years," and created "the fairest distribution of income of any country in the region." (13)

Is this the kind of guy you'd expect voters to be champing at the bit to dump?

1. New York Times, February 26, 2006.

2. Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2006.

3. New York Times, February 26, 2006.

4. Times Online, March 17, 2006.

5. Washington Post, April 22, 2005.

6. New York Times, January 1, 2006.

7. New York Times, February 26, 2006.

8. Washington Post, March 18, 2006.

9. New York Times, February 26, 2006.

10. The Heritage Foundation 2006 Index of Economic Freedom.

11. New York Times, January 1, 2006.

12. Times Online, March 10, 2006.

13. Ibid.