It was an interesting year… The iceberg of the Belarusian authoritarianism has begun melting. The sunbeams of “liberalization” started caressing the surface of the Belarusian economy. The global economic crisis, the uneven, wavering spirit of Belarus-Russia relations, Russia-Georgia War – all these events got Lukashenko and his team thinking how to keep in control and not let the ship of the “Belarusian stability” sink in the muddy waters of the current uncertainty.
It is quite obvious the government is now seeking ways to make certain concessions to indulge the West. The govt released the political prisoners, allowed two independent newspapers to return to the state-run system of distribution, registered For Freedom Movement (of Milinkevich)… But the Belarusian regime makes a very well-thought-out tweaks to the political landscape, not real changes. The tweaks are not systemic and thus safe for the government.
The opposition is still kept away from the real political process; i.e., our parliament is 100% opposition-free. The laws are still repressive, the govt can cancel all these temporary liberties at any point.
In about two years, we will have presidential election. Traditionally, the pre-campaign period in Belarus is the time when the government cleanses the political field of the possible threats. 2008 is still way too early for any screw-tightening. At this point, Lukashenka might be feeling quite secure, in other words, skeptical of his opponents’ powers. Or he badly needs to keep socio-economical stability in the society nurtured by his own stability mantra.
I do hope this liberalization pattern continues in the following year. I do hope.
Happy New Year to you all!