Sunday, March 19, 2006

Balloting in Belarus

Not surprisingly, this weekend's presidential election in Belarus is shrouded in controversy and allegations of corruption. Exit polls indicate that incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko will win with 82% of the vote, but leading opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich has already called for a re-vote. Indeed, Milinkevich has called the election "a complete farce". Early returns put Lukashenko at 89%. The BBC reports here.

This could turn out to be another Ukraine, although Milinkevich denies that he supports any sort of revolution. He wants protests to remain peaceful (as they were in the Ukraine -- I thank Professor Shugart for pointing this out in his comment below). Yet Lukashenko is an old-school authoritarian and Belarus remains one of the least resistent to liberal democracy of all the former Soviet republics.

The BBC, however, reports that Lukashenko has widespread popular support and that he likely would have won even a completely fair election. In Belarus, it seems, post-Soviet tyranny is fine.

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The photo above struck me when I first saw it. Is this the face of the Belarus voter? If so, Belarus must be a rather attractive place, soul-crushing authoritarianism notwithstanding. And yet, see these charming photos from the BBC:









































You know what, though? Democracy is still a beautiful thing. This election in Belarus may have been corrupt -- and, if so, there does need to be a serious reevaluation of the results (and I wouldn't mind something akin to the Ukraine's Orange Revolution, or whatever is necessary to remove Lukashenko from power) -- but hopefully the people of that downtrodden nation will soon know what it means to vote in a free, fair, and competitive election. For now, though, a democracy that elects an anti-democrat isn't much of a democracy at all.

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Update: The BBC (see link above) is reporting that "[p]reliminary official results show President Lukashenko won re-election with 82.6% of the vote". Milinkevich was well back with just 6%. Turnout was 92.6%.

So now what?

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