Belarus Opposition Elected the Free

The Social Democratic Party of Belarus (Gramada) met for its Extraordinary Congress in Minsk August 3, 2008. The resolution was to strip Alexander Kozulin off the chairman's office. Kozulin, whom the West considers a political prisoner, is currently serving a sentence in colony. The new leader of Gramada is Anatoly Levkovich, the former deputy of Kozulin. The Congress was "the performance staged by agreement with authorities," Kozulin's supporters said.

The forthcoming changes in Gramada have been talked over since February. At that time, the party's leader Alexander Kozulin said in the letter that the party was losing authority. The reason, the leader went on, was "the battle of self-esteems, ambitions for mythic power amid a narrow group of people." Kozulin is in colony now, serving the sentence of five years and a half for organizing an unsanctioned rally of March 25, 2006.

Kozulin was released for a few days to attend the funeral of his wife. The leader met with the former brothers-in-arms, and that meeting didn't inspire optimism. After it, the leader publicly lashed out at former mates for Gramada's withdrawal from active political life. "When the party leader is in prison, the concern of deputies is hardly the settlement of personal matters. It looks like betrayal very much."

The combatant spirit of imprisoned leader notwithstanding, the party failed to avoid the split. The first faction was taken by Anatoly Levkovich, the first deputy chairman of once united Gramada, while Kozulin's daughter Olga became the leader of another faction, For Interparty Democracy.

The standoff of two factions reached its peak during the recent Congress. Two candidates were nominated for leading Gramada - Alexander Kozulin and Anatoly Levkovich. Levkovich came down on opponents, declaring that quite a few in the West regard Alexander Kozulin an extremist. In the end, 53 delegates voted for him and 24 stood up for Kozulin, who would have to confine to the office of honored chairman of the party.



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