The power will have to deal with an unpredictable opponent.
Residents of Brest stated that if the construction of IPower battery plant was not suspended during the week, they were ready to protest on the main square of the city.
Charter97.org asked the coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign and one of the leaders of the Belarusian National Congress Jauhen Afnahel for comments:
- Being the representative of the Belarusian National Congress I have recently participated in the rally in Svetlahorsk. Residents of the city oppose the plant of the bleached kraft pulp, which harms the environment and bothers people.
This is not an isolated case when the authorities, build harmful enterprises, which damage health and well-being of the people. I'm happy to see that people do not agree to live under such conditions and are ready for decisive measures.
Residents of Svetlahorsk have chosen the most effective way of resistance: they took the streets. Marches of Angry Belarusians of the last year served a good lesson for the people. People have realized what methods in resisting the authorities are the most effective and will use them regularly.
One moment is noteworthy. In the spring of 2017, during the first March of Angry Belarusians we offered a dialogue. Lukashenka had the opportunity to sit down with the opposition at the negotiation table. We warned that if the authorities ignored our proposal, they would have to deal with boiled over ordinary residents of Belarusian cities. And a worker who has not got his miserable salary for several months has completely different arguments. And the talk will likely be a short one, or there will be none. This is very unpredictable opponent.
Today we observe angry residents of Svetlahorsk or Brest, who protest against the construction of plant; Minsk residents who protest against the urban densification. People are put to desperate shifts; and it is hard to predict the moment when their resentment takes the streets.
Spontaneous riots and revolutions were caused by small, domestic events. Somewhere bread is not delivered to shops, somewhere prices are increased, somewhere soldiers eat spoiled soup. The Boston Tea Party was the protest against discriminatory duties. It was the beginning of the American Revolution. Unfortunately, the Belarusian authorities have poor knowledge of history.
- Protesters in Brest stressed that they delivered an ultimatum. How would you comment on such accents?
- I will stress once again that things happening in Brest are the consistent pattern. Such protests we can observe throughout the country. And these are realities the authorities have to tolerate, because Belarusians have learned to talk to them from a position of strength.
We witnessed it last year. Belarusians decided that they could revoke the tax on "parasitism" and they took the streets and did it. People have learned this lesson very well and react to short-sighted decisions of the authorities in ultimatum form.
It seems to me that someone has thrown Lukashenka a wobbly. Does the adoption of Decree No. 1 right after Decree No. 3 prove situation understanding in Belarus? Many experts agree that the dictator has lost the track of true events in the country.
- What do you think a possible way out?
- There are two scenarios for Lukashenka: urgent reforming of the economy, which is impossible without reforming of the political system and fair presidential and parliamentary elections. It is clear that then he loses power, but it is a peaceful scenario.
The second variant is continued attempts to get the last penny from Belarusians. It is implemented by price growth, the cost of utilities and communal services, reduction of pensions and benefits, introduction of new taxes. By means of illegal constructions, which we observe in Brest and Svetlahorsk. In fact, they are grounded on bribes and corruption schemes.
If Lukashenka pursues the second option, sooner or later a social upheaval occurs. People will take the streets and overthrow this pover. But this is hurtful option for the regime, and it may cause deplorable results for many if its representatives. There are two examples of the recent past: events in Poland and Romania in the late 80s. General Wojciech Jaruzelski had courage to sit down at the negotiation table with the opposition, Nicolae Ceaușescu had none. We all know how changes came to those countries.
Lukashenka experiences zugzwang, there are no more steps for him to make. As Ecclesiastes said, it's a time to gather stones.