The opposition was not visible at the Belarusian local elections
The local elections in Belarus on 14 January took place only a few days after a heated dispute with Russia over the price of gas and transit to Europe. This was a difficult time for Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko who no longer has unqualified support from Moscow. However the opposition were not able to avail themselves of new opportunities.
During those days there was nothing in Belarus to show that the elections were taking place at such a decisive time for the country – there were no demonstrations, very few leaflets or posters, no political advertising in the newspapers and on television.
Most people I asked on the street did not know any of the candidates and were not sure whether they would vote. Which is not surprising since most probably, having come to the poling station, the Belarusian voter would find only one candidate who supports the policy of the regime. This was what it was once like in the Soviet Union.
The opposition at first put forward less than 500 candidates for 24,000 places, but by the actual day of voting only a few dozen of these remained. Other members of the opposition refused to take part in the elections, accusing the authorities of pressure. In March 2006 during the presidential elections, the Belarusian opposition was much more active. However, then Lukashenko, whom the USA calls the last dictator in Europe, was easily re-elected for a third term.
The results were not recognized by the West and the mass protests which lasted several weeks filled the opposition with hope. It promised to begin a civic movement and within a year or two oust Lukashenko. The present mood is very far from the plans then. Ever fewer people take part in the rare street actions, and the leaders of the oppositions are arguing among themselves. Even at the height of the political crisis, when Lukashenko had conflict with his main ally – Russia, the opposition failed to demonstrate the ability to fight.
In addition, Lukashenko continues to enjoy considerable support in society and this week appointed his son member of the countrys security council. Many believe that his son would be his choice for successor if he ever decides to step down.