Belarus beat back Bush

By Stephen Millies

Alexander Lukashenko was reelected President of Belarus on March 19 with 82 percent of the vote. George Bush lost.

The White House promptly rejected the election results and demanded a new election. Bush didn't even allow a recount of the votes in Florida during the controversial 2000 election.

Lukashenko's biggest rival, Alexander Milinkevich, got just 6 percent. Terry Nelson, the political director of Bush's 2004 campaign, was a top advisor to Milin kevich's campaign. Nelson has now signed up with Sen. John McCain for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

Barely half of registered voters vote in most U.S. national elections. The turnout in Belarus was 92 percent. Voters could cast their ballots March 19 or several days earlier. This made it easier for working people, especially working women, to vote. Nobody had to wait in line for hours, like Black people did in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2004.

Both the U.S. and European governments poured in millions of dollars openly and covertly to defeat Lukashenko. The Feb. 26 New York Times admitted that the Bush Administration was spending $12 million in 2006 to overthrow the Belarus leader. Another $2.2 million was allocated by the quasi-governmental National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is also trying to topple Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

The European Union awarded $2.4 million to a German company to broadcast hostile radio and television programs into Belarus. The Polish regime set up Radio Racja with similar goals. Though he is an opposition figure in Belarus, Milinkevich was allowed to address the Sejm, the Polish Parliament.

The NED, Britain's Westminster Foun dation and Germany's Foreign Ministry gave money directly to Luka shenko's opponents, according to the Times.

Yet Milinkevich never thought he could win the election. His hope was that by yel ling "fraud" loud enough he could provoke a confrontation with the government.

After the election, Bush's candidate called for his supporters to come out to the main square of Minsk, the nation's capital, on Sunday evening. Belarus has nearly 10 million people. But only 3,000 to 10,000 people turned out. There was no police repression. The Washington Post estimated that just 5,000 people came out the following night.

Belarus is the only country carved out of the former Soviet Union that didn't allow a fire sale of its state-owned industry. Unlike Russia, there are no billionaire "oligarchs"-like the now-imprisoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky-who were able to loot factories and natural resources.

There is a stock market in Minsk. But 80 percent of industry is still state-owned. That is a good reason why the unemployment rate in Belarus is 1.5 percent, as compared to 18 percent in Poland in 2005, and 48 percent for Black men in New York City in 2003.

Average wages increased by 24 percent last year. Pensions also went up. The sales tax was cut. So why shouldn't President Lukashenko get an overwhelming number of votes?

Lukashenko also angered Bush by denoun cing the invasion of Iraq and defending Cuba, Iran, People's Korea and Venezuela in his address to the United Nations General Assembly last fall.

Three million people died in Belarus during three years of Nazi occupation. In a country the size of Kansas there were 260 death camps and 70 Jewish ghettos. Over 200,000 people died in the Trostenz camp.

The people of Soviet Belarus fought back, killing nearly a half-million fascist soldiers in guerilla warfare. The Nazis called these partisans "terrorists."

Both Bush and the European Union have threatened sanctions against Belarus because their candidate lost. They failed to make Belarus their colony and let the Pentagon use it against Russia.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice labeled Belarus, along with Cuba, People's Korea and Zimbabwe, as "outposts of tyranny." But for workers everywhere Belarus is an outpost of resistance.