Lukashenko Gets the Last Laugh
Is the European Union working for democracy or aiding a dictator?
A recent scandal in which officials in Lithuania and Poland provided the banking details of human rights and democracy activists to the Belarussian authorities is a serious and unprecedented mistake made by two EU member states that for years have tried to help Belarus overcome the autocratic rule of President Alexander Lukashenko. It comes at a particularly bad time and raises several critically important questions.
The structure of the Belarussian regime is based on Lukashenko wielding exclusive power. Over the past 17 years, this skillful autocrat has outmaneuvered domestic and international opponents while violating many rules and reducing the parliament to a ritual, pliant body. The protests since the December presidential election helped Lukashenko learn about the networks of his opponents and to design a strategy for exploiting them. Lukashenko and his apparatus understand that in a period of deepening economic and social crisis, they will need to use new tools and approaches to keep protests under control. Hence a new narrative for rescuing Belarus from internal and external enemies is being developed.
In this period, Lukashenko has been forced to depart from the image of the father protecting and feeding his people and instead intensify the fear among the population. The way he has harassed and jailed political opponents and brutally suppressed even benign protest activities suggests that he is likely to continue this inhuman trend despite global sanctions.
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