Belarus remains the most authoritarian regime among the European ex-Soviet states, despite a significant dissident movement among intellectuals and young people who grouped round Charter 97, Zubr (Bison) – a group committed to nonviolence – and other organizations. Commemoration of Chernobyl in April 2005 resulted in large scale arrests. Since the March 2006 presidential election, where the opposition failed to overthrow President Lukashenka, a major (but not exclusive) focus has remained on electoral protest. The opposition tried again in the presidential election of December 2010, despite arrest and torture of activists and journalists, and held a 30,000 strong demonstration in Minsk on election night. But the President retains a strong grip on power and still has significant popular support.
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D. II.2.c. Belarus 2006 and 2010
Examines why protesters failed to achieve regime change in the 2006 presidential election. Argues that the historical background of the regime, the popularity of the president, and electors’ concern with economic rather than democratic issues were all important. Also considers role of Russia and its ambivalence towards the Belarus regime.
Examines presidential election of March 2006 and argues that, although the protests against abuses apparently failed, they created a ‘network of solidarity’ and a ‘revolution of the spirit’. Two essays by Silitski focus on the effectiveness of the authoritarian regime and why it can contain protest: Silitski, Vitali , Pre-empting Democracy: The Case of Belarus Journal of Democracy, 2005, pp. 83-97 , and Silitski, Vitali , Contagion Deterred: Pre-emptive Authoritarianism in the Former Soviet Union (the Case of Belarus) In Bunce; McFaul; Stoner-Weiss, Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Postcommunist World (D. II.1. Comparative Assessments)New York, Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 274-299 .
Covers earlier Belarusian history and search for identity, but gives weight to analysis of President Lukashenka’s rise to power and how he maintained it effectively for so long, including his handling of the challenge in the 2010 presidential election.