Thursday, March 23, 2006

Balloting in Belarus (update)

This past Sunday, I reported on the tainted presidential election in Belarus -- see here. Leading opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich called the election "a complete farce" and demanded a re-vote.

Since then, protests have continued, in the streets. President Alexander Lukashenko, an old-style authoritarian, promised to crack down on protesters. And he has. Here's an update from the BBC: "Riot police in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, have broken up a five-day demonstration against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko. More than 100 troops poured into the central square and loaded protesters onto waiting trucks."

The protests have been small -- "about 150 demonstrators were in the square when it was cleared in less than 20 minutes" -- but "this has been an unprecedented protest for Belarus". And this isn't over. Milinkevich has said that "a huge demonstration" is being planned for this Saturday. Lukashenko will no doubt crack down on that one, too, but dissent is now out in the open and the reform movement seems to have confidence and determination.

This may or may not be the time for revolution -- I hope it is, but I wonder if Belarus is ready (Lukashenko is very much in control and his huge electoral win, corruption notwithstanding, suggests that his popular support is strong) -- but at least the possibility of revolution is now out there, personified by the courageous protesters in Minsk.

It is that spirit, the liberal spirit, that will ultimately lead Belarus out of the abyss of tyranny and into the promised land of democracy.

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