Odd Man Out 18:45, 23/02/2006, Andrei Sannikov, Charter’97 international coordinator
After yesterday’s TV speeches of candidates for presidency, Alyaksandr Milinkevich and Alyaksandr Kazulin, it has become obvious that the pre-election campaign has started seriously. No matter how Lukashenka is trying to ignore the two real candidates, he is already taking part in the debate and losing them totally. Both Milinkevich and Kazulin have raised the most serious questions, concerning every citizen of Belarus. They have not just raised them, but they also proposed practical ways of their solving. Milinkevich was sincere, thoroughgoing and composed. Kazulin pinpointed attention upon problems hushed rather forcefully dispelled the myth of “flourishing” country, saying about the level of salaries, pensions and fees which are to be paid by the state with an open and controlled budget. It is not even pre-election promises, but a realistic calculation in line with the potential of Belarus.
Milinkevich is a transparent candidate, who has passed through a democratic selection beneath our eyes. His platform is a result of collective work of professionals. It is still unknown, who or what is standing behind Kazulin. We’d most like to believe that he is an independent figure, or at least he wants to become one. But the combination of a calm, thoughtful and a bit too quiet Milinkevich and harsh Kazulin has changed the pre-election game.
So what’s Lukashenka’s answer to criticism and invitation for a discussion? He answers with wild stepping-up of his special services, rather reminding of armed gangs that are ready to seize anybody, and then invent accusations. With barbaric pictures “For Belarus!” (that should be reads as “For me, dictator”) that transfigured towns and reached public transport. With shameful concerts under the same name with bubblegum music ridden to death and low-class “stars”. With blocking Russian TV channels for new portions of mud-flinging against opposition and the West. And this all is done on our money.
After the two TV speeches the society has started to discuss earnestly advantages and disadvantages of Milinkevich and Kazulin, estimating who would be better as a president. Meanwhile Lukashenka is regarded as an annoying hindrance to changes, who is preoccupied by his our fears and complexes, not by the country. The things he could propose, are well-known: intensification of self-isolation, enslaving contracts, suffocation of business, humiliation of public servants. No joy.
And the candidates are holding out hope for real changes for the best. All told – we want a new one!