dictatorships always end badly. And Alexander Lukashenko, 65 years of age, in command of Belarus since 1994, is showing signs of fatigue. At the approach of the presidential election on 9 August, during which the former director of a sovkhoze (State farm) aims for a sixth term in office, the protests increased in the former soviet republic of 9.5 million people. New face of opposition : Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 37 years, decided to defy the one who likes to be called "Batka" (dad) by his countrymen.
the Mother at home, Svetlana has emerged on the political scene after the arrest, two months ago, her husband, Sergei Tikhanovski, a famous blogger sentenced by the authorities to be launched in the presidential race. His wife decided to take over. In front of crowds of tens of thousands of people, it promises the liberation of all political prisoners and the organization of new elections in case of victory. A case far from being folded. Helped by the powerful KGB, its intelligence service whose name remains, despite the disappearance of the USSR, Lukashenko has imprisoned hundreds of opponents. Thirty-two mercenaries, the Russian private company Wagner, accused of wanting to destabilise the country, are also present under the locks. Back of Belarus, Yulia Shukan, master lecturer in slavonic studies at the university of Paris-Nanterre, deciphers the balance of power in the course.
The Point : Is this the biggest crisis in the regime of Alexander Lukashenko ?
Yulia Shukan : The country has been the scene of protests of a magnitude never seen since the late 1990s. And not only in Minsk. In the six major cities of the country, they attended gatherings considerable. This feeds a lot of hope among the population.
Why the authority has agreed to register the candidacy of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the one who now represents the opposition to Alexander Lukashenko ?
It is without doubt an error of assessment. The regime is first found in an unexpected situation with the breakthrough in the course of this campaign of people who did not belong to the traditional opposition : a blogger (Sergei Tikhanovski) a banker (Viktor Babariko) and an ex-diplomat (Valery Tsepkalo). So, the first two have been imprisoned, and the third had to leave the country. In the Face of the arrival of the wife of the blogger, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, decided to take up the slack of her husband, Lukashenko has left to do. He did not want to give the impression that he locked totally to the election. And then he was not taken seriously. It was a housewife without political experience. He has even said that only a man who has done his military service could assume the role of chief of the armed forces.
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Can it still away from the election ?
It would have to receive two warnings from the central electoral commission. But it seems to be difficult knowing that his name is already on the ballot and the procedure of the votes anticipated has already begun.
we expect to fraud and more massive than in previous elections ?
The machine is well-oiled with, at the head of the electoral commission, a woman in the position for twenty years and has always managed to produce scores around 80 % in favor of the president. I don't see how this election could escape him.
For Russia, Lukashenko is a problem.
Lukashenko has-does he still have the support of a part of society ?
there was no reliable figures on the extent to which there is no institute of independent survey. The only estimate available is state support of 25 % in Minsk last April and 25% to 30% in the rest of the country. The elderly, which has enhanced the pensions and the employees of public companies subject to all the pressures that are his voters. But the deterioration of the economic situation, rising unemployment, the departure of the workforce abroad explain a large part of the discontent. Not to mention the health crisis, during which the authorities have shown themselves incapable of protecting the caregivers and to provide equipment. Lukashenko has even held a speech very scornful while the concern of the State has always been at the heart of its social model. This failure has helped to fuel the mobilization. Another factor : the arrival of a new generation and the multiplication of information channels, through YouTube or chain-Telegram, which are undermining the official discourse.
What is the position of Moscow in this case ?
For Russia, Lukashenko is a problem. He defends the sovereignty of Belarus and blocks any political rapprochement and economic with Russia. At the same time, the Kremlin sees no alternative. If large gatherings are held the day after the election, it is likely that Moscow will stand behind him for fear of seeing a revolution on the horizon.
besides, Lukashenko does not point never the Kremlin. He blames the media, the oligarchs, the advisors technologies electoral Russian. He is careful to criticize Putin. That said, with the arrest of the mercenaries in Russian, he could have crossed a red line. But it is primarily a message for internal use. He wants to scare his opinion and discourage the protesters.
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What role can we attribute to these 32 mercenaries russians arrested ?
Lukashenko claims that it is an operation of destabilization. But the scenario for a transit of this group in Minsk is quite plausible, as there are still no flights to Moscow for abroad.
You don't hear Lukashenko criticize the West. Why ?
Belarus is in a phase of rapprochement with the West. The sanctions imposed by the european Union against numerous officials of the State had been gradually phased out from 2016. After long negotiations, Belarus has got many facilities in granting visas. Lukashenko still evokes the danger of the " revolutions of colors ", such as those that occurred in Ukraine, but, in his eyes, the threat would come now to Russia.
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What can happen the day after the election ?
The candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya do not call to get off the street. It proposes, first, to multiply the positions of the observer during the election and then to conduct a parallel vote count on an online platform, asking the citizens to send a photo of their ballots. It puts an emphasis on peaceful change. But there will definitely be protests. However, if until now, these were permitted, they will not be on 9 August in the evening. And people may be reluctant to go out. In front, Lukashenko is ready to do anything to defend his power. Leave to appeal to the army. In his address to the nation, it has been very clear : he warned that he would support the decision of the members of the election commission and that he would punish any violation of the law. This means that it will suppress. He visited the garrisons, he assists in the training of the riot police. He even referred to the massacre of Andijan in 2005 in Uzbekistan, which has left hundreds of protesters dead.
Can he count on his security apparatus ?
For the moment, I don't see a crack within the device. Lukashenko has always made sure to spread the responsible disloyal organizing rotations.