Belarus: Lukashenko planning an ‘exit strategy’?


After the 1953 uprising against East Germany’s Communist regime, Bertolt Brecht wrote the satirical poem “Die Lösung” (The Solution):

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed on the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could only win it back
By increased work quotas. Would it not in that case be simpler
for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

The notion that citizens are subordinate to the state is not exclusive to Communist states, as the above New Year’s Greetings from Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Democratic Forces reminds us, reaffirming their commitment to a democratic Belarus, where, as Belarusian national hero Kastus Kalinouski said, “not the people [serve] the government, but the government [serves] the people”.

Last week, Alexander Lukashenko called a referendum for February 27, on constitutional amendments that could allow him to further cement his grip on power and remain in office until 2035. But, in a sign of the regime’s jittery status, it plans to prohibit Belarusians from voting from abroad.

The referendum represents a personal survival strategy for Lukashenko, according to one observer.

Lithuanian political analyst Laurynas Jonavičius asserts that it is “most likely an exit strategy for Lukashenko to retire from politics, not to the gallows, but to retire, and going down in history as one of the Belarusian leaders (…) who ended up with a more or less good outcome”

Tsikhanouskaya this week joined a list of early nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, alongside jailed Russian opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, and the Myanmar opposition’s National Unity Government.

Some 75 Members of the European Parliament, from several factions and countries, have published an open letter, stating that if Russian troops remain in Belarus, it “should be seen as an occupation,” notes Franak Vyachorka, an adviser to Tsikhanouskaya.

What are the challenges faced by the democratic forces and their partners and allies?

Since August 2020, several packages of sanctions have been imposed on the regime by the EU, US, UK, Canada and other pro-democratic countries. How is this tug-of-war affecting Belarus? How effective are the sanctions and how can the pressure they exert on the regime be enhanced? These and other questions are discussed at an expert webinar (below) jointly convened by Tsikhanouskaya’s OST Research Centre and the Oxford Belarus Observatory (OBO), with the support of the GCRF COMPASS project.

Democratic Dilemmas

Tsikhanouskaya will be in a keynote conversation with Damon Wilson, National Endowment for Democracy President and CEO, on Thursday, February 10 at 10:30am MST. The session is on the agenda of the second-annual Denver Democracy Summit at the University of Denver hosted by the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. The Summit is held in partnership with the Alliance of Democracies Foundation . Full agenda here.



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