Saturday, August 15, 2020


Feb 24th 1985. Belarus, along with every other Soviet republic, holds elections for their local Parliament. The Communists win, of course, as they were the only party allowed to contest. Even the Independent candidates who ran needed Communist support. Nikolay Slyunkov would thus continue as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Belarus. All according to plan. 

Konstantin Chernenko was still the widely accepted "Leader" of the USSR. Selected, in part to stop another man from taking that job, he was old, very old; so old that supposedly, his eulogy to his predecessor was so garbled and incoherent that it could not be heard. His death, less than a month after these elections, would pave the way for that man, who the party had tried to stop, to become the new leader. Mikhail Gorbachev. 

By the March 4th 1990 regional elections, things had changed. With power being entrusted more and more to elected officials, VS party stalwarts, Nikolay Dementey had become seen as the leader; he was Speaker of the assembly. He would 'lead' the Communists to a victory, taking 302 of 360 seats, while the Anti-Communist Nationalists managed 26 seats. While these elections were not as 'free' or 'fair' as we prefer our elections, the same regional elections saw non-communists come to power in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Uzbekistan, and Georgia. 

Much like the rest of the USSR, things would collapse quickly from here on in. Dementey would be removed after he supported the coup against Gorbachev. He would be replaced by Shushkevich. He would become Belarus' first post-Independence leader. His career would end when he was accused of corruption by the head of the anti-corruption committee, a man who, like Shushkevich, had been elected as a Communist in the 1990 election. Shushkevich would be replaced by interim leader, then by Myechyslaw Hryb. It would be under Hryb that the final proposal for the new Constitution would be received, and voted into law. This would create the job of President. Hryb would not run for this job, and instead, would remain Speaker. Shushkevich however, would run. Also running was Vyachaslaw Kebich, who had served as Prime Minister since April of 1990. Other candidates included the candidate from that Nationalist party, the first Anti-Communist party in Belarus, as well as an Agrian, and a Communist. Finally, the last candidate was the head of that Anti-Corruption committee, the man who had been elected to the assembly as a Communist in 1990. Alexander Lukashenko. 

It was quite clear to any outside observer that Lukashenko had the best chance, by far, of winning any election, however free or fair. On the first round, he took 46% of the vote, and along with Kebich, advanced to the second round, where he trounced him in a landslide, taking 81% of the vote.

The 2001 election would see Lukashenko run for re-election. These elections were widely considered unfair, having both an unfair playing field that supported one candidate over the others, and an unfree ballot count, that skewed the actual results. It does seem, however, at least to me, that Lukashenko likely would have won the elections even if the actual ballots cast had been counted and reported honestly, however, likely with a lower share of the vote, closer to 60%-65% and not the reported 77%. 

The 2006 election would be much the same story. Unfair and unfree. Official numbers show Lukashenko taking an 84% vote, while unofficial polling suggests 60% may be a more realistic number. Yet again, however, it seems Lukashenko would have won the election had the actual ballots been honestly counted. This time, however, there were protests. These protests, known as the "Jeans Revolution" would last a little over a week, before ending. 

2010 is, yet again, more of the same. 80% official result, with polls suggesting an actual number closer to 40%. Despite these numbers, it seems likely, at least to me, that Lukashenko would have won the election on the second ballot, again, had ballots been counted honestly. 

2015 would repeat the same story. 84% official number, with polls closer to 40%. Again, it is likely that Lukashenko could and would have won the second round. 

So the question is, why would he have won all of these elections? The answer is quite simple, in each, the opposition was too divided. 

So, what happened in 2020. Is it the same old story?


First of all, independent polls, instead of showing Lukashenko at or around 40% of the vote, had him between 6% and 1%. This alone marks a drastic shift from previous elections. Secondly, those same polls suggested one person had what it took to win. Viktar Babaryka. 

Babaryka seems to be some sort of Businessman. It can be hard to pin down where those in the former soviet bloc got their money, but this man seems to have quite a lot of it. Beyond this, for the first time, former opposition candidates from across the political spectrum endorsed one person, Babaryka. 

Over June and July, Prosecutors managed to find that, surprise surprise, has committed crimes and can not be allowed to run. 

Bluntly, if he had been allowed to run, and, if the ballots had been counted honestly; he would be the President right now.

So, you might think; 'the dictator wins again'. Heck, he even banned another candidate who polled well in Independent polls, Tsepkalo. Is this, after all, not what a Dictator should do to remain in power?

Perhaps. But he missed one key aspect of his former victories. A divided opposition. In the past, his opponents themselves would disagree on things such as how close relations should be with Russia, or how Capitalist/Libertarian the state should be. 

There was another candidate who polled well. Siarhei Tsikhanouski. He is a youtuber. You can view his channel here. He too was banned from running, however, he was arrested early enough that his wife was able to register to run. She was never banned. Likely as Lukashenko did not consider her a threat.

As a result, he created a person that not only Tsikhanouski voters would support, but Babaryka and Tsepkalo supporters as well. If my estimate is correct, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya could have easily won 60%, or even 70% of the vote. Golos is reporting 80%, but only pro-opposition voters would submit data to Golos. Still, I estimate at least 51% of the vote was won by Tsikanouskaya. 

As a result, there has been nearly a week of protests.


What makes this different from, say, 2006?

Simple. She actually did get 51% of the vote. That means that many among even the security services, are likely to have voted for her. Have you seen the videos of "uniform shame?" Assuming the person in the video actually is part of the Police (it is quite possible they are not and simply have a uniform at hand) then these are people who voted for her. 

Where do we go from here?

In large part, that depends on what happens with the protests. If they continue, and continue to be as large as they are, for at least another two full weeks, then there may be change. There could even be change before that, but that would depend on what the Military and the Security services do. 

Regardless, I'll be keeping my eye on the situation. 

No comments:

Post a Comment