Do Belarusians have a chance for democracy?
Taras Semenyuk, Analyst KyivStatPro
Lukashenko’s problem is that he has not prepared a successor. He is copying Volodymyr Putin’s system of power; however, “batska” remains far behind his Eastern neighbor.
The problem of personalist regimes is that an authoritarian leader concentrates all power in one hand. State institutions operate on the principle of loyalty to a leader, not to the people and even not by law. It is happening because the authoritarian leader imitates the behavior of Louis XIV, who told «L’état c’est moi» (I am the State), that is why he establishes laws of co-existence.
At that time, in France, the political elite was discussing the primacy of royal authority as opposed to the Parliament. In Belarus, the absolute power and society are counteracting.
Belarusians are protesting not only to make “batska leave.” It is just a visible reason. Instead, the main idea is that protesters want the authorities to respect their vote, to be open to a dialogue, and not to label them as “maidan-crazy” or “sheep,” if Lukashenko just understands it.
Protesters think better about themselves because they mainly represent an average young middle class, which has achieved the success not by working at state enterprises, but due to their own efforts, in particular in the IT and business spheres. They were in the EU and saw how democratic countries were operating.
Protests can be a chance to create a real political opposition for the first time in history. However, to do it, it is necessary to have a leader, who will convert the society’s demand into political concepts.
Nevertheless, there is one “but.” It can happen only if Lukashenko himself enters into the dialogue, to which presidents of Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania are urging; except for Russia, a president of which congratulated the current president of Belarus with the victory. It is not a surprise as authoritarian leaders support each other.
Nothing popularizes a society as much as violence. The authorities’ violent confrontation in the streets of Minsk is a sign of Lukashenko’s reluctance to negotiate because it will indicate his weakness in the face of the security forces, who are still demonstrating their loyalty to him
Any presidential election is always a bet on security and protection. Mary Kaldor writes in her book “New and old wars” that instead, the stronger the sense of insecurity, the stronger the polarization of the society will be. At the same time, there will be less free space for alternative uniting political values. This book describes modern and organized forms of violence, such as organized crime and the mass violation of human rights, in the global era.
Authoritarian rulers are using terror tactics to reach their private political goals. In fact, all 26 years Lukashenko was building power around his person and thus, making it dependent on himself through terror.
In such circumstances, the transit of power from the state of total control to democracy will be extremely painful. In democracies, institutions do not depend on the will of one person. They depend on the law, clear rules of a game, and turnover of the power. This is what makes Ukraine different from Belarus. It is explained by the fact that since 1994 we have been changing out presidents. It has proved a certain maturity of institutions, which task is to balance the power, not to make it be concentrated in one hand.
Siabry are only at the beginning of their transit to democracy on the condition that protests will have a clear political agenda, not riots and confrontations with the security forces. The active minority will have an advantage over the majority, if it is conditionally institutionalized into political concepts and an alternative strategy of further movement in Belarus. In other words, it will happen when politics from the streets at least passes to the Parliament.
Today’s dependence of the country on Russia’s GDP is about 50% and China’s GDP is 15%. It does not mean that when the power changes, the course will also be changed. However, the power’s infrastructure can be changed enabling it to penetrate into all levels of the society in the whole territory and to make democratic and political changes.