F for Frustration

It was over pretty quickly with the election tension in Belarus. Now it’s post-election blues.

Nobody expected the Spanish inquisition: it was beyond logic that some 20 thousand would gather in the centre of Minsk after the closure of the polling stations to protest against rigged votes, that more than 600 would be detained or arrested, dozens would be beaten up. The presidential candidates were virtually abducted from the street or from the hospital.

The demonstration was violently dispersed after a group of youngsters attacked the building with the Central Election Commission and the parliament. There are no lists of those detained.

Journalists argue that the attack was a stage-managed government provocation in order trigger detentions. Probably, not. But some candidates were beaten and taken to the KGB detention centre before the attack on the government building.

Some official numbers:  More than 90% turnout, almost 80% supported Lukashenka and 14% was shared by the rest of the candidates.

Some more big numbers: 5 ex-candidates and several prominent opposition activists are still under arrest. They might be penalised for the organisation of mass riots (up to 15 years), but nothing is yet clear.

Meanwhile on Tuesday (21 December) searches and detentions went on.

Why would months of  “democracy” end up so abruptly? The protest potential and the cold wouldn’t keep Belarusians in the city centre too long. The demonstrations on the following evenings gather dozens people, no thousands. The police violence was excessive and rather pre-emptive than anything else.

The advantage of the authorities is their pro-active stand. Oposition leaders didn’t have any plan, they were undecided and disagreed whether to stay in the square or move to the Election Committee. And what to do there.

Even more so, the opposition knew that provocations were prepared but never took means of precaution to protect the action and the people who dared to join it.

President Lukashenka called a rather negative OSCE assessment a huge step forward. He pointed out that “too much of this stupid democracy is over” and he won’t let “tear the counrty into pieces“. He promised to publish within a week information on the operation of opposition parties and NGOs and the backstage data on their financial sources.

Journalists will also be made fully responsible for every word they write, he said. The election-time heyday of free and easy reporting is over.

Lukashenka remarked that it’s not manly for people to complain that they have been beaten up: “You want to be a president? You have to bear it!”

The president-elect now has compelling problems to tackle, such as foreign debt, the export deficit, urgent demand for economic modernisation.

The country needs money. EU ministers coming to Minsk before elections have talked about €3 billion for projects and reforms in future. Russia’s conditions for $4 billion dollars in indirect aid are unclear but the offer seems to have been snapped up by Minsk as both sides are very optimistic about the oil and gas deliveries.

Was one of the conditions sending a clear signal to the opposition via the use of police batons?

Russian Dmitry Medvedev voiced hope that as a result of the elections Belarus will continue to develop its state on the basis of democracy and friendship with its neighbours (!).

The EU seems perplexed and for a reason. It’s yet to be seen if this will influence relations between Brussels and Minsk. But so far the reaction from the neighbouring EU capitals was very moderate.

Me, I am pretty frustrated… Another election, another democratic flop… My hope is  that every exit is an entrance to somewhere else.

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