Archive for September, 2010

Love Your Choice

So be it: 19 December 2010. The Presidential election in Belarus won’t bring any surprises anyway.

The election will take place before Belarus and Russia agree on new gas prices, which could rise from the current $185 per thousand cubic metres to $250 and threaten Belarus’ social stability.

The authorities have said already that the vote will fully comply with national laws.

Minsk promises to invite the maximum amount of foreign observers. The OSCE/ODIHR mission will be more interested to see if it complies with international standards. In the past, they have always said Belarus’ elections fail to meet democratic norms. Interestingly, their CIS observer mission colleagues from former Soviet countries have always said the opposite.

The upcoming campaign will be different – this time Minsk cannot rely on silent approbation from Moscow. Russian diplomats in the OSCE and CIS missions might work together to make the two reports more similar. But would Moscow favour a more positive OSCE verdict or a more negative CIS one than usual?

The information war between Minsk and the Kremlin is plain to see. But not what lies behind it. Belarusian experts say Russia has no strategy for the Belarus election and will not try to topple Lukashenka. It’s unlikely that Russia would like to sponsor a revolution of any colour in Belarus. It might want to make the Belarusian leader as nervous as possible ahead of the hydrocarbon price talks, however.

This time Lukashenka won’t be able to beat Belarus most famous pro-EU opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich. That’s because Milinkevich announced that he won’t run.

Milinkevich, Europe’s darling, the united opposition candidate, got 20 percent of the vote in 2006, as far as we know. He says he is not taking part in the new elections because they are not elections. He won’t take part in a play, he says, where the director, the playwright and the actor are all one and the same. In his name you see Europe giving up.

The opposition, recently again labelled the “enemies of the people” by Lukashenka, has no common candidate in 2010. There could be up to a dozen pro-democratic romantics keen to be President and several of them running against Lukashenka, and each other, in the final sprint.

There is nothing to indicate that the incumbent will not be re-elected.

The most interesting part will come after elections anyway.

Choose thy love. And love thy choice.

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What’s in a Date?

It’s fun to be President of Belarus! You can never get bored. Nor can people around you.

Some countries rename themselves in the hope of a brighter future. Some governments rename their security services in the hope they will perform better.  Some presidents rename the days of weeks or months.

Belarus is different. We are practical.

Suddenly, two of the longest avenues in Minsk had their names changed without any public debate. WWII veterans wrote to the President saying they want the now-so-called Independence and Victors avenues to be named after their achievements rather than after a Belarusian enlightenment publisher and a popular, post-war Soviet politician.

There have been laws in Belarus to rename newspapers as non-governmental ones can not use the adjective “Belarusian” in their name.

On 1 September new norms of Belarusian language came into force. One of them says the word “President” should always be capitalised. It adds to the regulation that this word in Belarus should be used only for the highest political rank.

The latest news is that the President’s birth date has been changed. No, it’s nothing radical, just the small matter of having it one day later. On 30 August protocol departments in foreign ministries around the world sent their birthday greetings to Alyaksandr Lukashenka. But next year he is to get the congrats on 31 August instead. It wasn’t officially announced, but his official biography has been officially altered.

lThe President’s new birthday now coincides with the birthday of his youngest 6-year-old son, Mikalay, a.k.a. Kolya. They rarely part and are often seen together not just in Minsk but also abroad, even during top-level political negotiations and protocol dinners.

Why change? As the official story goes, the actual date of the Belarusian leader’s birth is and has always been 31 August 1954. The President had never before paid any special attention to his birthday. But after the birth of Mikalay he started to ask his mother for the details of his own birth. And so he found out that, rather than arriving into this world on 30 August, he was in fact born in the early hours of the following day. Why not just change it? Especially since now father and son can celebrate together? You can’t move the son’s birthday back one day, because his birth date is pretty certain.

To change the very day of one’s birth is not such a big deal, I would say. Especially for a President.

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