Michal SZCZERBA (Poland)
19 April 2021
Following highly problematic August 2020 Belarusian Presidential Elections, which many observers characterised as neither free nor fair, widespread protests swept through Belarus. That the elections were illegitimate was hardly surprising. President Alexander Lukashenko has long maintained his grip on power through electoral fraud and repression. This time, however, the opposition rallied around a single candidate after other candidates were either jailed or exiled and the public’s sense of betrayal was palpable.
The resulting political crisis has struck a society that is also struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic crisis, that though linked to that pandemic, also reveals the limits of the statist and centralised model that President Lukashenko has promoted. There are clear signs that this model can no longer meet the needs and expectations of the Belarusian people, particularly as it relies heavily both on state run enterprises and Russian subsidies, particularly on imported energy. Lukashenko has long exploited that model to Russify the country’s identity and cultivate it in a spirit of Soviet nostalgia in this young country. As that model falters, the opposition is now raising fundamental questions both about the country’s identity and its future direction. [...]
This preliminary draft report will be discussed by the Economics and Security Committee (ESC) at the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.