The ex-banker said he would be with the people if they took to the streets.
Former head of Belgazprombank, one of the potential candidates at the presidential election of August 9, Viktar Babaryka gave a long interview to the Russian edition of Moskovsky Komsomolets:
- Mr. Babaryka, you are a successful and wealthy person. Why did you decide to run for president? Why do you need this?
- I will answer with the well-known Russians quote: “It would shame our homeland.” It seems to me that Belarus is now on the verge of losing sovereignty. The reason is primarily the economic situation in the country. And the last straw was the attitude of the country's leadership towards Belarusians in the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think this is absolutely unacceptable. Neglecting the interests of the people was the main trigger that pushed me to making this decision.
- Do you think that Lukashenka’s actions regarding the epidemic were wrong?
- There are only two options for behavior in an epidemic. This is either strict isolation, full quarantine, or the “Swedish model”. Sweden introduced quite soft, but still restrictions. And the main attention was paid to the “risk group”, people aged 65+. The whole world chooses one of these two options. But Belarus has chosen its own unique path: to simply “ignore” the epidemic. This is obviously wrong.
- If Belarus votes for you, won’t it happen so they trade the bad for worse? Why are you better than Lukashenka? Are you sure you can rule the country better than him?
- I do not think that choosing me, Belarus will trade the bad for worse. I am sure that I am categorically different from Mr. Lukashenka both by virtue of my experience and understanding of how to build a country correctly. Our power system is built on “leaderism”. This is when a leader delves into everything from agriculture to IT technologies. He is the bearer of all knowledge. This is a very controversial model of governing the country.
My vision is that the head of state is a manager. The manager’s task is to build a system, choose very smart and clever people and, as one of your compatriots said, “do not interfere with smart people working.”
- Are there such smart people in your team?
- I am sure that in Belarus even now there are enough smart people in the government. It’s just it’s not intelligence or initiative that are in demand, but diligence. I know so many people who are now in power, and at the same time smart enough. One has only to make a request for their intelligence, and they will cope wonderfully. Because even now in the framework of overcoming the crisis there were proposals of the Council of Ministers, with which I agree by 80%. But they simply were not accepted.
- You were not in the ranks of the opposition. Critical attitude to the existing system did not prevent you from being fully integrated into it. You headed Belgazprombank and generally felt rather well under the regime of Lukashenka. Why are you going against him now?
- It is strange to hear that I am a “part of the system”. 9 million people live in this country. Do you think they should all be in the opposition? I am not part of the system because I have never worked in government agencies. Look at my articles, and you will see that my position has long diverged from the position of the current government.
- What reforms does Belarus need first of all?
- At the strategic level, it is necessary, firstly, to return the laws of evolution to Belarus, that is, to abolish the irremovability of the president, to return the principle of two terms. This must be done. That is, constitutional reform is needed. Further. A real separation of powers is needed, which is not there today. The third. Change the power request from “do what I said” to the initiative and development of individual abilities. These are three structural reforms that need to be implemented, and thanks to which the country will receive a new impetus to development.
- There is a version that Lukashenka’s dissatisfaction with Moscow stems from the fact that he goes against the interests of the Russian big bourgeoisie, which would like to get some Belarusian assets into their ownership. How do you feel about them?
- I am extremely skeptical about conspiracy theories. I do not see examples when Russia would behave this way in relation to other countries. And I see no reason for the Russian Federation to behave this way in relation to Belarus. Moreover, I don’t see a desire in Belarus for this to happen. This is the business of the Russian Federation, if you have such versions.
- What will you do when you become the president of Belarus? What are your first three steps?
- The first step is to uncover the whole truth about the epidemiological situation we are in, and take all necessary measures to properly respond to it.
The second step is the understanding that the blow that the coronavirus dealt to the economy was unexpected and severe. We need a set of measures to support our own economy. These measures should be effective and cover all sectors, primarily the non-state sector of the economy, small and medium enterprises, and not just large ones. These measures, perhaps, should also include financial support. It will be necessary to determine the extent. Because now no one knows the true figures about the state of the economy, except for one candidate. These measures should last to 2021. Because 4-6 months are not enough to get out of the crisis, this takes a year and a half.
The third thing is to look at the structure and quality of the government, to form the right cabinet. And further, as I said, do not interfere with people working.
- What is your attitude to the “union state” and integration with Russia? What do you intend to do with this project?
- I think that both you and your readers did not see the “31st road map” for the integration of the Russian Federation and Belarus. Therefore, you must first understand what is contained in these documents. I believe that the position on any integration and any union should contain two very important things.
This integration either should not affect the sovereignty of states, or affect it in equal proportions, equally. And the second thing - all unions should be mutually beneficial. Therefore, if the documents of our “union state”, which are developed and ready for signing and partially already signed, meet these criteria, then there is no point in revising them. If not, then they must be put in order.
- How do you feel about the idea of maintaining a single currency of the “union state”?
- If it is economically feasible, then why not. In this regard, a good example is the monetary policy of the European Union with the euro. In general, I believe that multicurrency is an economically inefficient story. In the foreseeable future, the number of currencies will decrease.
- After your election, will you recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the Crimea as part of Russia?
- In Belarus, the following principle applies. There is a part of legislative acts where international laws prevail, and there is another part where local legislation is a priority. I’m not sure that Belarus’s position on this issue is determined exclusively by local legislation. Most likely, it should take into account international law. This issue must be dealt with. I now have no answer to this question, because I do not have the completeness of the information. In addition to relations with the Russian Federation, Belarus is bound by a huge number of international agreements, including within the framework of the CSTO. That is, you need to have a complete picture in order to decide which position is right.
- What position will Belarus take with you regarding the conflict in the Donbas?
- The answer is similar. It is necessary to study international law, and its effect in our republic. But I am for Belarus as a reconciliator in any conflict in which we can help find a compromise solution.
- How will you build relations with Kyiv?
- As with Moscow, Washington, and Beijing. As with all partner countries. I will not be original here, I think the phrase of one of the British prime ministers is fair: “England has no permanent allies and eternal enemies, only permanent interests.”
- What forces are behind you, support you? Some consider you a secret protege of Moscow or its business circles, others - an agent of influence of the West.
- Since I worked at Belgazprombank, the “hand of Moscow” would not be a secret if it were true. Similarly with the West. Behind me is the Belarusian people. Behind me is the Belarusian business. And I am very offended and upset that for some reason Belarusians are denied the right to choose their president. For some reason, everyone believes that Belarusians will not choose the president of Belarus. And I think that it is Belarusians who choose him.
- Do you finance your campaign yourself?
- Unfortunately, the Belarusian legislation is structured in such a way that an amount equivalent to one hundred thousand dollars is allocated for the entire campaign, for all three months. Moreover, there are restrictions on a single contribution. For an individual it is about 250 dollars, and for a legal entity - 600 dollars. And you also need to report on this. I’m probably going to write reports for two more years after the election. Therefore, we finance the entire campaign from the family budget.
- Imagine the day after the election. Your team conducted a parallel vote count. Lukashenka declared victory, you have one and a half to two percent. And your data shows your victory or the second round. What are your actions in this case?
- My position is very simple. I do not believe that the choice of the people can be falsified. I assume that 71% can be turned into 90%, but I do not believe that 90% can be drawn from 2%. Therefore, I am absolutely sure that if the elections that we hold show that our victory is achieved with an electoral majority, such elections cannot be rigged. Otherwise, it will turn out that “the president will be stolen from the people” (somewhere I heard this phrase and I remember it). How will the people behave if the president is stolen from them? Belarus has not yet encountered such a situation and, God forbid, it will not.
- So you are sure that if you really win, they will not be able to falsify and declare victory for Lukashenka?
- If I have more than 50% - then there are simply no options. In extreme cases, this will be the second round. We understand how to make these elections transparent. Our motto is very simple: we are for fair elections. On Sunday, we issued a declaration of fair elections. We asked all presidential candidates to join. We believe that if we are supported by the citizens of Belarus, then there are practically no options there.
-You have not even been registered as a candidate yet?
- Yes. Now there is a stage of collecting one hundred thousand signatures for nomination of presidential candidates.
- And if you are not registered?
- In order not to be registered, you need to make violations. We know what these violations are. We carefully verify our documents. If it suddenly turns out that something is wrong, the CEC will be forced to show us where we made a mistake. We plan to collect not one hundred thousand signatures, but at least 300-400 thousand. In general, the goal is set - a million. Therefore, I think that the chances for not registering us tend to zero.
- Are you able to encourage people to take to the streets?
- I am not a supporter of any bloody protest. But I can definitely say: if people take to the streets, then I will be with them.
- Cross out the option of a “bloody protest”. And do you rule out the scenario of the “velvet revolution”?
- I think that if we have an electoral majority, then the very “velvet revolution” will happen very easily in Belarus, when our victory will become obvious to everyone. And therefore, no force and bloody actions are needed. A legitimate transfer of power will simply happen.
- Lukashenka is rather tough with his opponents. Do you feel pressure from the current government?
- We feel violations of the electoral law. Today, we have already filed a complaint with the CEC about the numerous violations committed by individual candidates and the authorities in the framework of this campaign. In addition to the cynical use of administrative resources and provocations, neither I nor the members of my team feel the pressure and threats.
- In case of your loss, do you fear revenge from Lukashenka? Can you stay in Belarus?
- I am sure that the Belarusian people cannot lose the election. If the people show the demand for me as a person, and for my program, and I am sure of this, then there can be no loss.