Let's Make Belarus True Europe, Milinkevich says

Alyaksandr Milinkevich, a leader of For Freedom party, announced his candidacy in the next presidential election. He said his campaign slogan would be "Let's Make Belarus True Europe!"

At a May 3 press conference in Minsk, Milinkevich said he sees Belarus' future in the European Union (EU) and hopes to "draw the Belarusians closer to the European level of life" within five years. Milinkevich plans to negotiate visa-free travel to the European Union for Belarusians and plans to create a free trade zone with the EU if elected president. He also supports building a market economy in Belarus.

Milinkevich vowed to "renew the democratic principles of the separation of powers declared by the 1994 constitution and hold elections for all bodies of government according to international democratic standards," secure independent courts and freedom of expression, and repeal "all discriminatory laws that obstruct the activity of non-governmental organizations and trade unions and violate the rights of ethnic and religious minorities."

He said Belarus should maintain "good-neighborly, open, mutually advantageous relations" with Russia and promised to conduct neutral foreign policy.

Milinkevich's nomination was approved by the Rada (Council) of the his party For Freedom (Za svobodu) at an April 30 meeting. The party is legal yet frequently harassed by the Belarusian police.

Milinkevich won six percent of the 2006 election, which Western organizations said was neither free nor fair. Perhaps remembering the past, Milinkevich warned the Belarusian authorities should count votes jointly with the people.

"You count the votes - we recognize your elections. You don't count them - we take people to the streets for a peaceful protest, which will cause no chaos or bloody revolution. If there is no democracy at polling stations, democracy is implemented in the streets," he said.

Earlier presidential bids were also announced by Ales Mikhalevich, a former deputy chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front; Vital Rymashewski, co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party; Andrey Sannikaw, leader of an opposition group called European Belarus; Mikalay Statkevich, chairman of the Narodnaya Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party; and Syarhey Haydukevich, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party.


Partners: Social Network