22 January 2021, Friday, 19:39
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Die Zeit: Lukashenka’s Losing Ground

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Die Zeit: Lukashenka’s Losing Ground
PHOTO: REUTERS

A desire for change is too high.

Aliaksandr Lukashenka imagined the year 2020 differently. The self-proclaimed ruler expected to be able to consolidate his power in Belarus by turning elections into a farce.

Ironically, the three women whom he had previously deprived of the opportunity to be politically active became his most dangerous opponents, the German newspaper Die Zeit (unian.net translation) wrote.

The publication reminds that the EU's relations with the autocrat have also been improving recently. Nevertheless, he became persona non grata again. Besides, Lukashenka has contracted COVID-19, the existence of which he previously denied.

The one who has long been called the last dictator of Europe may remember the year 2020 for a long time. It might be a critical year for him. The publication reminds that after the rigged election victory in Belarus, unprecedented protests erupted, led by three women, including Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya.

The West imposed new sanctions against Lukashenka's regime. Tsikhanouskaya, who now resides in Vilnius, had the support of European leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Lukashenka, on the other hand, finds himself in international isolation. Moscow is the only one that supports him.

The Belarusian autocrat made too many mistakes in 2020. His odd policy line on the coronavirus has not calmed down but has only turned the population against him. His furious attempts to suppress political opponents have politicised many citizens before the elections. The unprecedented brutality of law enforcers, who suppressed the protests, has not broken the Belarusians' resistance, but only intensified it. Thousands of people are demanding Lukashenka's resignation. Some people consider it the end of the post-Soviet utopia.

Lukashenka's regime has triggered a dangerous spiral of protests and police violence. People are being arrested, intimidated, subjected to criminal proceedings, and having their bank accounts frozen. According to some estimates, Lukashenka's security forces have arrested about 30,000 people since August. Tens of thousands of Belarusians have fled the country. A young man has recently been beaten to death at a police station. The brutal behaviour of security agencies has greatly tied themselves to the fate of the ruler.

Political analyst Valery Karbalevich believes that the year 2020 has brought an end to the post-Soviet utopia. The former Soviet Republic of Belarus followed a different path after the collapse of the USSR. Lukashenka, who took office in 1994, abolished all political and economic reforms. He enshrined Soviet symbols such as the KGB and the flag. Now, 26 years later, this miniature Soviet Union, is on the verge of collapse.

"This year has proved that such a model cannot be a real alternative in the post-Soviet era, but only leads to a dead end. The year 2020 will be the last echo of the fall of the Berlin Wall," believes Karbalevich.

Lukashenka holds power because the security apparatus supports him. But the so-called "social stability" the post-Soviet Minsk used to boast of so often is now an artefact of the past. Lukashenka's new inauguration took place in secret. In the summer, state factory workers even booed him. Although the number of protests has dropped since August, there is no reason to expect them to disappear in 2021. After 26 years, anger at Lukashenka's regime and a desire for change is too high.