October 22, 2004
BELARUS ELECTIONS: MINSK'S 'THEATER OF THE ABSURD'
** Euro, Asian media term Lukashenko's "elegant victory" an electoral "farce."
** Dailies bemoan Europe's "impressive powerlessness" to effect change in Belarus.
** Belarus papers say "pruning" of the opposition and referendum result were "no surprise."
'Europe's last dictator'-- European and Japanese commentators denounced the results of the Oct. 17 elections in Belarus as a "farce" that would permit President Aleksandr Lukashenko to remain in power "forever." One of "the most experienced election manipulators" in Europe, Lukashenko "was destroying" his country's constitution to satisfy his desire "to rule eternally." Writers judged the constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections as "absurd" and "pure parody." Democracy in Belarus, said Germany's left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau, "will forever remain an unknown Greek word." A Japanese analyst commented that the "potential setback for democracy" in Belarus would likely "have a negative impact on other Slavic states" and would "undoubtedly affect" upcoming elections in Ukraine.
The 'limits of Europe's influence'-- Euro writers lamented that the West "not only has failed to adopt a consistent policy towards Belarus, but is often inclined to restrict itself to a formal condemnation" of the regime's undemocratic actions. Noting that "Lithuania will have to live in the neighborhood of a dictatorial regime for years to come," leading, liberal Lietuvos Rytas observed critically that "neither Lithuania nor the West has any particular policy towards Lukashenko's dictatorship." Euro papers split on how to confront the challenge. To give up the EU policy of "critical dialogue would mean that we do not hold Lukashenko responsible for respecting democratic standards," a German writer argued. Polish papers in contrast called for a "serious and effective response," stating that "sanctions are needed."
'Not everyone can be a dictator'-- Calling the election results "nothing special or surprising," Belarus' opposition Narodnaya Volya stated: "We were just deceived one more time." An independent Minsk daily saw no likelihood Russia would join Europe in sanctions, meaning "there simply will be no unified and agreed sanctions--the only thing that Lukashenko may really fear." Reformist and business outlets in Russia labeled Lukashenko a "worthy student of Stalin"; they interpreted the Kremlin's objection to U.S. sanctions on Minsk as "pro forma." Some writers opined that Lukashenko was the "best option" for Russia as otherwise "a real political struggle" could erupt in Belarus, but one analyst said Russia might "spare itself a lot of trouble" by talking Lukashenko out of seeking another term. Neo-communist Pravda attributed Lukashenko's electoral victory to Western pressure that "alienated" Belarusians, pointing to the fact that "Lukashenko has not sold out Belarus either to the West or to Russian oligarchs" as one of the "principal reasons" for the support he has garnered.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 36 reports from 12 countries October 18 - 22, 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BELARUS: "Elections Plus Referendum: More On Options"
Aleksandr Fyaduta commented in independent Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta (10/19): "Today...the opposition [has been] hard-pruned.... According to the theory of Tatstsyana Protska [chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee human rights watchdog], the survivors were mainly those who presented no danger or the leaders of parties that were fated to die the political death of the brave at the hands of stay-away voters or zealous divisional electoral commissions.... Lukashenko may still retain what is called hope 'by analogy'.... After all, so far the West has brought into play only two possible instruments--direct talks with representatives of the Belarusian authorities (the carrot) and declaring a small number of the representatives of those same authorities 'personae non gratae' (the stick). No other option, such as economic sanctions that would really be felt in Belarus, has yet been employed.... The Belarusian regime faces a risk of totally losing its legitimacy in the eyes of the West in 2006. If the EU does not make up its mind on real sanctions, Lukashenko will remain a political and legal problem for it for many years to come. But, ultimately, if the West creates a problem for itself, it will have to resolve it. After all, another question arises--the degree of synchronization of the Western and Russian positions.... The worse relations [between Russia and Belarus] are, the worse things are in Belarus.... Putin's patent dislike of Lukashenko and Lukashenko's tender mutual feelings for Putin provide no grounds, however, for thinking that Russia will not recognize the results of the referendum.... Today, when it has no guarantees from the West on respect for its (primarily) economic interests in the region and comes in for fierce criticism over its methods of fighting terrorism and its policy in Chechnya, Russia will not risk losing its influence over Belarus.... It would be wrong to expect Russia to join in any sanctions that Europe will introduce against us after the referendum .... And that means that there simply will be no unified and agreed sanctions--the only thing that Lukashenko may really fear.... If there are no sanctions now, that certainly does not mean that the West will be unable to reach an agreement with Russia closer to 2006--so long as there...[are no] new statements by Western politicians that complicate Putin's position in his own country.... If Aleksandr Lukashenko has won in 2004, that does not mean that he will be capable of winning in 2006--unless, of course, the democratic electorate emigrates en masse."
Independent daily Belorusskaya Gazeta commented (10/18): "Winners are not judged, especially when the judges are appointed by the winners."
Opposition paper Narodnaya Volya observed (10/18): "What happened in the referendum on 17 October? In our opinion, nothing special or surprising. We were just deceived one more time.... How many more such 'elegant victories' will our country have to face?"
BRITAIN: "The Dark Heart Of Europe"
The independent Economist editorialized (10/23): "Russian politicians have queued up to endorse Mr. Lukashenko's referendum. Yet Mr. Putin would do better to cultivate a more democratic Belarus. Mr. Lukashenko's antics--his corrupt regime provides cover for illicit arms trafficking too--besmirch Russia's reputation.... If Mr. Putin and the West wait much longer, Mr. Lukashenko, rather like Fidel Castro in Cuba, may become all-but impossible to budge."
FRANCE: "On Europe’s Doorstep, Belarus On The Road To A Dictatorship"
Alain Guillemoles wrote in Catholic La Croix (10/19): “Step by step, Lukashenko is building a dictatorship on the borders of the EU.... The OSCE has declared that the voting was full of violations and the opposition considers it to be an ‘electoral farce.’ Belarus is on the EU’s doorstep but it is practically in a blind spot. Indeed the EU is so eager to invent new relations with Russia that it has been looking beyond nations such as Moldova or Belarus.... In Europe’s favor one must acknowledge that it is difficult to have any influence on Lukashenko...who besides wanting to rebuild his own Moscow-Minsk axis, has also supported Saddam Hussein’s regime...and worked on developing relations with Iran and Syria.”
Left-of-center Le Monde commented (10/18): "[Lukashenko is a] cartoon populist who took advantage of the fears that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union by exploiting the themes of public order and security.... His 10 years in power have been marked by the muzzling of the press, the disappearance of numerous opponents and the international isolation of Belarus.... The only supporter he has left is Russia."
GERMANY: "Powerless Against Minsk"
Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/21) had this to say: "Elections in Belarus always follow...the same pattern: first, the opposition is gagged before elections, then the election outcome is falsified, and now comes the third stage: beating up and imprisoning opposition supporters. The West reacts as always with harsh words, but it is always the same with rituals: they repeat but nothing changes. The absurd Lukashenko system has been stable for many years, but the impressive powerlessness of the European Union is also impressive. Since May, three of its members have a direct border with Belarus, and that is why it is high time to put more effective pressure on the potentate.... But Lukashenko is not really isolated because not only the EU but also Russia is in its neighborhood. But Moscow is almost deriding the West when saying the outcome of the referendum reflects the will of the Belarusian people. Russia is pressing for a strategic partnership with the EU, but, at the same time, allows the dictator in Minsk to do whatever he likes and keeps his country alive with energy supplies. If the West really wants to help initiate a 'velvet revolution' in Belarus, it should use the detour via Moscow. But Putin does not have the guts to do so."
"The Empire Of Autocrats"
Daniel Broessler commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/19): "Belarus is not exactly what you can call an open society. Here, a president with disturbing manners maintains his firm grip on power. The ruthlessness of the notorious manipulator is increasing from election to election. Neither the criticism of the domestic opposition nor the complaints from Europeans bother him. Lukashenko managed to get a parliament elected that has no opposition, and he 'won' a referendum that will allow him to stay in power forever. Belarus is as far away from becoming a democratic state as the Vatican is from introducing women's suffrage. For the West, the Belarus example is disturbing for two reasons: first, it shows the limits of Europe's influence, since harsh words against Lukashenko are like blunt needles. Second, it is just one example for the many facets of autocratic countries 13 years after the Soviet Union collapsed. Belarus is not an exception. Apart from the three Baltic countries, none of the former Soviet republics has become a democratic state… The rule is that those who seized power in the former Soviet Union are not giving up voluntarily.... The weakness of democrats in those regions has multiple reasons, such as a lack of democratic tradition, economic difficulties and an ill-fated continuity of intelligence services.... Although Lukashenko manipulates elections, the number of his supporters is remarkable. There is little light in the East. It does not make sense for the West to turn a blind eye on the emerging gigantic Eurasian territory where democracy and the rule of law might have no chance for a long time."
"Hundred Percent Yes"
Karl Grobe argued in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (10/19): "Alexander Lukashenko is not unpopular among his people; they've gotten used to him and keep quiet.... He would not need to forge elections, but he has done it again. Opponents in Minsk--by definition a chanceless group--noticed a turnout of over a hundred percent at some places. And Lukashenko made sure that they do not enter parliament.... Democracy in Belarus will remain an unknown Greek word.... Only election observers from the former Soviet Union believed everything was OK--almost as nice as at home."
Right-of-center Straubinger Tagblatt/Landshuter Zeitung of Straubing editorialized (10/19): "How should Europe respond to the election farce in Belarus? Can we simply turn a blind eye on how the last governing Bolshevik fortifies his power by an organized forgery directly at the new EU border? Only one person apart from the Belarus dictator is interest in the scandalous circumstances. His name is Vladimir Putin."
"The Advantage Of A Dialogue"
Roland Heine noted in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (10/19): "In the past, the EU pursued a policy of critical dialogue with the leadership in Minsk. This approach should be continued, because it is in the interest of Belarusians and the EU. Contrary to many other autocrats, isolationism would not hurt Lukashenko, as he has always tried so far to restrict relations with the West; this policy enabled the country to ignore Western criticism and it worked because Russia stands by the regime for strategic reasons.... To give up the policy of critical dialogue would mean that we do not hold Lukashenko responsible for respecting democratic standards. Since May, the EU has shared a border of 400 kilometers with Belarus. We need the country's cooperation in fighting drugs and human trafficking. And it is about access to important roads and pipelines. The new EU countries Poland and Lithuania in particular, but also Germany cannot be interested in a new ice age with the East."
"Routine Of Fraud"
Daniel Broessler commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/18): "Being one of the most experienced election manipulators on this continent, Alexander Lukashenko could be a bit more relaxed. Over and over again there were complaints about unfair elections in Belarus. Although the criticism was as foreseeable as the election result, Lukashenko got angry as if it was the first time, shouting at journalists that the West should mind its own business. The president is right. One of these problems--actually a great one--is Belarus. Given that the impoverished country of 10 million inhabitants is a EU neighbor, we cannot be indifferent towards Belarus, where human rights are violated, the media are muzzled and elections are fraudulent. And this referendum was especially important because it is apparently supposed to allow Lukashenko to remain president for his entire lifetime. At least, it will dash the hopes of the opposition. The West must act on it if it does not want to give up Belarus for good. The reaction on the manipulation must therefore be harsher than before. We cannot expect Russia's help, since Vladimir Putin makes no efforts to distance himself from Lukashenko; in some respects he even copies him."
"The End Of The Continent"
Christoph von Marshall opined in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (10/16): "Belarus is a stable country, but it is the stability of a dictatorship. Dictator Lukashenko is destroying the constitution with this weekend's referendum to safeguard his third term.... Europe must reconsider its relations with its eastern countries. The Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are not following the path of other Middle European countries, at least not in the foreseeable future. They are no longer Communist dictatorships, but autocratic regimes without real multiparty systems. Their democratic and civic forces are far too weak to prevail and the West's influence is not profound enough. We will only succeed in liberating Belarus from Europe's last dictator if the West and Putin join forces and try everything. We should assure Russia that NATO will stay out and that Belarus remains part of Russia's sphere of influence. That would be much better than the current blot on Europe's landscape."
ITALY: "Belarus, Elections Amidst Terror"
Giampaolo Visetti wrote in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (10/18): “Yesterday Belarus was forced to give President Alexander Lukashenko the right to life-long rule.... The result of the farce vote, which was denounced by OCSE observers and went unrecognized by the international community, was a given.... Following Lukashenko’s triumph, which was built on terror, Belarusians fear a bloodbath.... In a protest on the outskirts of Minsk, at least 70,000 people will reportedly speak out against the vote rigging and will ask for freedom and the dictator’s destitution.... The country appears paralyzed and without hope.... People don’t dare rebel in fear of a civil war.”
RUSSIA: "Europe May Join In"
Yelena Shesternina wrote in reformist Izvestiya (10/22): "Deputy Minister of the Economy Andrey Tur of Belarus says, 'We aren't scared of the sanctions.'... But his optimism may run out if European countries, the IMF and the World Bank join in, with a quarter of Belarusian exports 'tied up with' Europe. As for Moscow, it insists that everything is OK in Belarus."
"Pro Forma Act"
Business-oriented Kommersant stated (10/22): "Russia formally condemned the [U.S.] sanctions, but did so in a mild sort of way, mostly as a matter of form. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, for one, stated, 'We can't support using sanctions in principle. Sanctions should have specific targets and not affect the interests of the population.' His words may be taken to mean that Moscow is not happy with Lukashenko, either. But sanctions hurt ordinary Belarusians, not Lukashenko's regime, and help him build up his power."
Ol'ga Mazayeva and Anatoliy Gordiyenko observed in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (10/22): "Official Minsk is trying to demonstrate in every way that it is not afraid of the Americans.... What the Belarusian president really fears is armed action by the West.... Lukashenko hopes very much--and he makes no secret of it--that Big Brother, Russia, will intercede if someone decides to break into his 'vast household.'"
"A Warning To Kiev"
Reformist Vremya Novostey observed (10/22): "Washington's lightening decision to impose sanctions on Minsk can also be seen as a warning to Kiev. The Americans are making it clear to the Ukrainian leadership that much the same will happen with Ukraine if the West decides presidential elections there do not measure up to what it considers fair."
"Belarus: Results And Prospects"
Official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta commented (10/22): "Few have noted that none of the opposition made it to parliament in Belarus. In rich America, more affluent Switzerland, and even theocratic Iran, the opposition has its people in parliament. Belarus is an exception. It must be an earthly paradise, with everyone there happy and content with everything. Why think of common currency and ways of association? Instead, we should join Belarus immediately, move our capital to Minsk, and have our forefathers' dream come true at last.... The fact that our high-ups keep mum (on the vote outcome), leaving room for maneuver for later, is perhaps a considered stand. After all, a referendum is not an election.... But our reluctance to intervene will be taken by Minsk as weakness. Slowly but surely, we are becoming a 'paper tiger,' as Belarus is getting ever more confident that its leader can do anything vis-a-vis Moscow. Letting Belarus fall by the wayside may prove a bad mistake. Belarus belongs to a sphere of our key, if not vital, interests. We can't let it be destabilized or, worse still, go over to somebody else's sphere of interests.... And lastly, we can't ignore what is happening to the brotherly people or let the regime that puts its political opponents behind bars and shuts down universities grow stronger. We will earn gratitude from most of Belarus' intellectuals and people, and spare ourselves a lot of trouble in the future, if we talk Lukashenko out of running for president again. Then perhaps we will have a chance to build a real union. With the incumbent, it is impossible. Lukashenko has proven that."
"What Makes Russia Dislike Lukashenko"
Gennadiy Sysoyev commented in business-oriented Kommersant (10/19): "Yesterday's statements by Russian officials that they respect the choice made by the Belarusian people do not mean that the Kremlin is happy with the outcome of the Belarus referendum. It is not. It can't possibly be, with Aleksandr Lukashenko having secured the right to run for president for a third (fourth, fifth...) time. The reasons Moscow dislikes Lukashenko, however, differ from those of the West, which accuses the man of his authoritarian ways. Russia's reasons are quite specific and have to do with the economy.... The Belarusian president not only ignores Moscow, he also tries from to time to make overtures to the West, hoping to blackmail Russia. At first Moscow responded quite effectively by cutting off natural gas supplies to Belarus. More recently it has decided to take a closer look at Belarusian politicians in the hope of finding a possible replacement for Mr. Lukashenko, one who would be more compliant and less odious. But Aleksandr Lukashenko, each time he comes under pressure from Moscow or the West, skillfully uses it to jack up his popularity ratings, thereby hiking up the price of his stepping down. Importantly, by criticizing Minsk for the undemocratic referendum, Moscow, unwittingly, makes for more democratic polls at home."
"Referendum On The Sly"
Gennadiy Petrov and Anna Kutyrina held in reformist youth-oriented Moskovskiy Komsomolets (10/19): "Lukashenko has reinforced his status as a dictator. The 'old man'...has yet again demonstrated to the entire world that he is a worthy student of Stalin, having turned the procedure of the nationwide election into a farce. Lukashenko could well put the proposition 'I am the Tsar to a referendum. The result would be just the same: 77.3 per cent. Because the return with the necessary percentage was signed by the Central Electoral Commission even before the first voter approached a ballot box."
"Referendum And Elections In Belarus -- The People Supported Lukashenko"
Neo-communist Pravda declared (10/19): "The significance of this victory becomes still more apparent if you consider the circumstances in which it was achieved--above all, the massive pressure from the West to get Belarus to change its policies, to break or replace Lukashenko himself. From the moment the date of the parliamentary election was announced, this pressure increased sharply. As soon as it became known that a referendum would be held at the same time as the election, it turned into an open attack. The threats from the U.S. State Department were followed, as if on cue, by demands from the Council of Europe and the European Parliament for, basically, a cancellation of the referendum.... All this hypocrisy alienated the people, as did the boundless deceit, especially that related to the republic's socioeconomic policies, to which the 'democratic' opposition and its overseas patrons resorted.... The fact that Lukashenko has not sold out Belarus either to the West or to Russian oligarchs is one of the principal reasons for the support which the people have shown him."
Leonid Radzikhovskiy remarked in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (10/19): "You can abuse him as much as you like, but you still have to give him his due. Not everyone can be a dictator, especially the last dictator in Europe. And again, quite possibly, such a leader, such rule is the best option for Belarus today.... What I value in Lukashenko is precisely his authoritarianism, his imperiousness, his dictatorial features. After all, to an immense extent it is precisely these aspects of his unique personality that have saved us from 'a single Russian-Belarusian state', a danger which for one short moment was almost serious."
"Lesser Of The Evils"
Vladimir Vorsobin maintained in youth-oriented Komsomolskaya Pravda (10/19): "Nothing special has happened in Belarus. To doubt whether Lukashenko will rule our Belarusian brothers for the foreseeable--and maybe, the unforeseeable--future, is the same as wondering whether snow will fall in winter.... There is just one problem. The West will certainly call Lukashenko a usurper. If it imposes sanctions, this will cause the Russian authorities a great deal of moral and, possibly, material inconvenience. But Russia has evidently decided that this is the lesser of two evils. In the absence of Lukashenko, there would be a real political struggle in Belarus and the Kremlin does not want this kind of bother. The Kremlin has already got the Caucasus, elections in Ukraine, and reform on its hands. Furthermore, Russia's gas passes through the old man's territory on its way to Europe. So why pick a quarrel?!"
"Lukashenko Wants To Be Father Of Nation"
Boris Volkhonskiy commented in business-oriented Kommersant (10/18): "It is not that the Belarusian president suddenly decided to ask the nation what they think of his running for office a third time. It is what he did over the past 10 years.... The force of inertia causes people [in former Soviet republics] to support the powers that be, and a weak opposition guarantees incumbents no problem in getting re-elected. But for them getting just re-elected is not good enough. True to Soviet tradition, they want to be installed as fathers of their nations. Winning '50% plus one vote' won't make them happy. They need 99.99 or at least 75 to 80 percent. Anything less than that is tantamount to a defeat, as seen by the father of a nation."
AUSTRIA: "Theater Of The Absurd In Minsk"
Burkhard Bischof observed in centrist Die Presse (10/19): “The elections were ‘free, honest, legitimate, transparent, open, democratic,’ according to Eastern observers. The elections were ‘not free’, ‘manipulated,’ ‘staged,’ a ‘farce,’ ‘beyond all international standards,’ criticize Western observers. Belarus’ President Lukashenko has once again demonstrated that he is completely indifferent to what the Western world thinks of his theater of the absurd (‘Mind your own business’). His formula is simple: he just denied the facts that independent observers have pointed out in his theater of manipulation. The question that remains is what to do with someone who, in the 21st century, creates his own reality, does not serve his people, but instead turns his people into subservient subjects, and who evidently enjoys to some degree his pariah existence? The Western world is simply at a loss. But about 10 million people of Belarus will apparently have to live in a state of autocratic bondage.”
LATVIA: "Lukashenko Falls"
Laila Pakalnina commented in independent, centrist Diena (10/19): "Lukashenko's desire to rule eternally is now only dependent on the president's own ability to live eternally.... There are no longer legal obstacles for Lukashenko to become Belarusian president not only for a third term, but even for a tenth or a hundredth term. However, Lukashenko fell on Sunday. It is true, though, that that happened only at one polling station in Minsk. It is noteworthy that the fall was caused by movements made by an observer from Latvia (a Latvian foreign ministry official rocked in a chair). Although the portrait of Lukashenko which fell on the observer's head inflicted a small wound...one cannot help noting the positive meaning of this accident. Namely, the fall of the portrait of the president proves that at least laws of physics still work in the neighboring country where everything is subjected to Lukashenko's control. It is impossible to subjugate all forces."
LITHUANIA: "Belarusian Dictator Seeks To Reign All His Life"
Leading, liberal Lietuvos Rytas held (10/19): "Lithuania will have to live in the neighborhood of a dictatorial regime for years to come. This prospect was once again confirmed a couple of days ago by the Belarusian parliamentary election and a constitutional referendum that enabled incumbent President Aleksandr Lukashenko to stand for re-election for an unlimited number of terms. The election results declared by the official Belarusian government can only provoke sneers in the democratic world.... It is little surprise...that not a single member of the opposition was elected to the Belarusian parliament. But is it enough for Lithuania limit itself to a mere description of the state of things in the neighboring country, which is what our politicians and diplomats did yesterday?... It seems that neither Lithuania nor the West has any particular policy towards Lukashenko's dictatorship in Belarus.... The West not only has failed to adopt a consistent policy towards Belarus, but is often inclined to restrict itself to a formal condemnation of the undemocratic actions of the Lukashenko regime. One could hardly deny the fact that the foundation of the Belarusian dictatorship lies in Moscow. As long as Lukashenko has strong patrons, or rather allies, in the Kremlin, he will be able to feel at least relatively invincible. But does that mean that Lithuania should just observe the developments in Belarus passively.... Even with its limited material and intellectual resources, and being realistic about its influence on the international are, the official Vilnius could still at least try to influence processes in neighboring Belarus. To achieve that, the country would first of all need to formulate a policy based on a clear, specific and accurate analysis of the situation in Belarus and try to convince its Western partners to carry out this policy.... It is evident that the West opens its eyes to the problems in Belarus only when it turns out unexpectedly that the country's regime has sold weapons to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein or when official institutions present the international community with reports about physical extermination of political opponents in Belarus."
POLAND: "Isolate The Authorities, Not Belarusians"
Piotr Koscinski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (10/21): “Perhaps [Lukashenko] hopes that Europe will restrict itself to verbal protests and everything will remain as it was. And, judging from the information coming to us, nothing more serious is in the air. However, a serious--and effective--response is needed. The authorities in Minsk should feel that organizing an election farce and oppressing the opposition is absolutely unacceptable in Europe.... Belarus is becoming the Cuba of Europe.”
"Convince The EU"
Robert Soltyk wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (10/21): “The European Union’s declaration is strong and resolute, but words are not enough when it comes to Lukashenko. Sanctions are needed.... It is even more important--as Poles suggest--to find funds to support the civic society in Belarus, independent radio and television, free visas, scholarships for youth, etc. Europe can afford this--after all, the amount of money in question is not that big.... The policy of small steps, of gradually getting the EU involved in helping the democrats in Belarus, has more prospects for success than, for one, a demand that the Kremlin whip its satrap into line. Europe does not feel like starting a brawl with Putin. It would not pay for Poland to do so either.”
Andrzej Jonas wrote in military weekly Polska Zbrojna (10/21): “Europe is cognizant of the Belarusian relic, and does not seem to have either the will or the energy to change the situation. The [election] observers’ negative opinion is of no significance. Russia calmly places Belarus in its area of interests. The outcome of the elections and the referendum and how they were conducted are no surprise, but they are bad news as they only worsen the collapse of this country and offer no prospects for how to solve the issue. Today’s Belarus is an issue to Europe, which will only grow bigger with time.”
Centrist Rzeczpospolita pointed out (10/18): "The state-run media in Belarus triumphantly announced a voter turnout of more than 80 percent. How could the outcome be different...in a country that operates on the old Stalinist premise that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, but who counts the votes. The constitutional referendum and the parliamentary election...was pure parody."
Liberal Gazeta Wyborcza remarked (10/18): "The election outcome in Belarus is not especially shocking. Everything went according to plan. Opposition candidates were intimidated, students and workers were escorted to the polling booths. All under the banner of 'Vodka for Voters.'"
Centrist Den commented (10/19): "If the Belarusian Central Electoral Commission is to be believed, more than 70% of Belarusians do not see how absurd the situation is."
"The 'Elegant' Victory"
Opposition paper Ukrayina Moloda (10/19): "Belarus is a country of poor people--this is why Lukashenko's 'elegant victory' was possible. Trying to eke out a living, the poor do not have enough time to consider why their lives have become even more wretched after the 10 years that their 'favorite' has spent in power."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
JAPAN: "Possible President For Life In Belarus"
Conservative Sankei noted (10/19): "The results of the latest referendum in Belarus effectively opened the way for President Alexander Lukashenko, known as the last dictator in Europe, to become a 'president for life.' An overwhelming number of Belarus voters supported constitutional amendments that will lift re-election restrictions, allowing the same person to run unlimited times for presidency. The poll results are bound to affect the presidential election in neighboring Ukraine later this month. The potential setback for democracy in Belarus, a former core of the former Soviet Union, is likely to have a negative impact on other Slavic states."
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