28 March 2020, Saturday, 18:14
People’s Quarantine

Iryna Khalip: Everyone Speaks About Magical Number 95

Iryna Khalip: Everyone Speaks About Magical Number 95

The famous journalist has told about the situation in Belarus.

Famous Belarusian journalist Iryna Khalip has told in an interview with Vital Tsyhankou in the Belsat TV program “The Talk” about what is happening in Belarus today, and why she chose to participate in the political campaign this autumn.

- You have become a “candidate for candidate for deputy”. This was an unexpected move for many admirers of your journalistic talent, and for the political public. How do you feel when being a “candidate for candidate”? You stand there in the signature-collecting pickets - what does it give you?

- It gives me inspiration first of all. Secondly, standing in pickets gives me hope. Thirdly, it gives new themes for me as a journalist. It gives me a lot, actually.

Frankly speaking, I have never thought it would be like this.

- You mean, in a good sense? Have you expected less?

- Yes, I have expected less.

- What do these bigger things manifest in? The people’s reaction? The number of people who come? Or is it the themes, unusual remarks that the people tell you?

- It’s everywhere. First, very many people come, even from some distant city districts, they arrive with a purpose to say hello to me, as they read the schedule of the signature-collecting pickets on the Charter97.org website.

- However, they cannot sign for you, because they are not your “clients”, right?

- Yes.

Besides, there is another problem - Lukashenka, having destroyed the legislative power, also destroyed the legal consciousness of Belarusians. The people have got used to having no parliament for 25 years, and now many of them don’t even have a clue what electoral district is.

“Cannot I put my signature if I live in the Zialiony Luh district?” people ask.

No, you cannot.

- Sometimes people sign for one candidate in their electoral district, and then they are told they can’t sign for anyone else. However, this is not true, as, according to the law, a citizen can sign for all candidates in their district if they want to…

- Absolutely, and it was Lukashenka who destroyed this..

- I think I have started with a very simple question… Apart from the positive impulses, which you see, there is probably also a lot of misunderstanding of this step of yours. You have always said negative things about the “elections”, never participated in them, campaigned for boycott, both as a journalist and a representative of the European Belarus in a certain sense. What has changed?

- Everything has changed, the whole situation.

I am a conservative person in a certain sense. I would like to have an opportunity to choose for myself a precise position since early years, and forever, for the entire life. Like, I am for the boycott and that’s final. But, unfortunately, it never happens like this. There are no universal techniques, methods or strategies that would be applicable to one campaign, and another, and one more, ten years ago, today, ten years after. It just doesn’t happen so.

Unfortunately, one needs to change along with the situation. Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis (Times change, and we change with them - edit.)

- What exactly has changed in the situation that made you take such a decision? It is quite radical for you.

- I am extremely upset by the fact that a nuclear power station is about to be commissioned in our country. I am very much worried that the pressure from Russia has become more powerful than some three-five-ten years ago.

It seems to me that earlier, all the threats were hypothetical. Even the military drills West -2017, when there were talks that the Russian army will come to our country and stay - even then there was no such absolutely serious threat as now. I can feel it - it wasn’t here before, but now it is.

And you know, the people are gradually losing belief that something can be changed here. I am not so naive as some may think. I understand that participating in a political campaign, which coincides in time with the “election” to the “house of representatives” is not the beginning of changes.

The beginning of changes is the mobilization campaign. We can tell we are participating in the mobilization political campaign.

Let’s wake the people. Let us show that we exist, that we are capable of risking, of taking on to the streets.

- And the final strategic goal is, of course, the presidential election? The election as a base for the Square action?

- Absolutely.

- This is what political analyst Pavel Usau spoke about recently - he criticized those participating in the campaign, and said that, if take part in it, then raise the Square action issue. You do raise the question like this - does it mean the participation in the, as you put it, not election, but political campaign, is justified?

- Totally.

- However, if the authorities feel it - they will probably start treating you differently? Not as an ordinary candidate, but as a potential revolutionary, who wants to use legal opportunities for something else, in the reality?

- I do understand all this. Of course, if there was an opportunity to avoid risks, to change something without risking, I would gladly use it.

But there are no such opportunities, or I don’t know about them yet.

- Have there been some negative remarks in your address after you voiced your intention to run for deputy, in the social networks or personally? And the second thing - how can you go for this campaign, you, the one who was in jail, who has such radical attitude to this power?

- Of course there were. I was prepared that, at the first stage, there would be more negative reaction from the allies than from the authorities.

The authorities, I think, haven’t yet got it, so they have behaved calmly so far. Maybe they are thinking, contemplating, analyzing. Maybe they are deciding on what’s better: maybe now, during this stage, they need us more than we are hindering with them, or is it vice versa? Do they need to do something, or, on the contrary, pretend there’s democracy and everything is allowed, just like in the autumn of 2010, right till December 19.

I don’t know. I cannot predict what is happening inside the authorities now, in their corridors, but I was fully prepared to get some negative reaction.

- I have an impression that we, the journalists and political analysts, have already given away the victory to Lukashenka next summer, but, alongside with that, we don’t have a proper sociological research of the theme, but we have certain impressions, that the rating of the current authorities is as low as never before. Do you have the same feeling?

- Yes, absolutely. Yes, the lowest rating ever.

You know, I keep hearing the magic number 95 lately. Do you know what 95 is? People approach me, no matter at pickets, or just the people I know, barely know, or don’t know at all, and say: “Do you realize that it’s already 95% against Lukashenka?”

They don’t know each other, these are the people from different circles, from different fields of activity, and all of them say - 95%.

And I agree. 5% is, probably, the administration, the top officials, who dived so deep in the dirt they cannot let the power change.

But 95% are against. What can we do with that? “We, Belarusians, are peaceful people” - the official national anthem says. We are against blood spilling, revolutions, radical things. We would like “peaceful changes”. We would like to have an opportunity to go and vote.

I really don’t want to believe that it is no longer possible to come, vote, sit at some round table, enter a dialogue, etc. This is it. This is impossible. Only protests. This is hard to admit, but there are no more remedies and methods - only one. And protests are always risky. I know it better than anybody else, probably.

- But here, in contrast to 2010, after 2014, after the Crimea and Donbas, a new argument appeared, about which I want to hear your opinion. This is the Russian argument: if we protest, it will supposedly be beneficial to Russia. In 2015, the first “elections” took place, after which there was no Square. For the first time, the opposition did not prepare the Square, because, they say, if we prepare the Square, Russia will use it and it will be even worse. Whose benefit is this argument? Don't you think that it can even be prompted by the authorities? Or is there really such a risk? How to simultaneously deal with the real danger to sovereignty on the part of Russia and our authoritarian power - so that there is no coincidence of these two trends?

- Well, we must understand, and you and I do understand that this power, despite everything, is supported by Russia.

Firstly, it is under this power that annexation of Belarus is possible - and only with it. It seems to me that none other than Lukashenka would do this. But Lukashenka, it seems to me, thinks that he can continue slipping between raindrops, which he has been doing for 25 years …

- A geopolitical twine …

-Yes, and he thinks this can continue. But it is precisely this way that the Kremlin can finally press him in.

Thus, I believe that the protests are not in favor of either Lukashenka or the Kremlin. Let us nevertheless understand that protests are, firstly, the real will of the people. Secondly, the Russian protests that we observed this summer are also inspiring.

Not all Russia dreams of the “Russian world”, that Belarus becomes a “northwestern territory”. There are normal people there too - and our goals coincide. They also want Russia to be a civilized country, and we want Belarus to be a civilized country. And nothing will stop us, I hope one day to achieve this.

-I know you as a journalist and politician. I think you will not limit yourself to a banal, standard standing in pickets. When you get registered - shall we expect some surprises, unusual for anybody else, from you during this campaign?

- I promise a bright, interesting campaign.