No new strategy, but old resolve: Former political prisoner set to run for presidency

The exact date of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Belarus is not yet known. However, intentions to seek presidency have been already announced by some politicians, including at Wednesday’s press conference in Warsaw. The event was devoted to the current situation in Belarus, the Russian threat and the opposition’s strategy.

Poet and writer Uladzimir Nyaklyayeu, Mikalai Statkevich, the founder of the Belarusian Association of Military Officers, and former deputy foreign minister Andrey Sannikau worked together and took joint action as far back as 2010. Each of them not only participated in the then presidential run, but also became a political prisoner for organising protests against vote rigging. After the crackdown on the peaceful protests in Independence Square (Ploshcha) and high-profile trials, their political paths diverged. But according to them, now it is high time to unite.

“If one is engaged in politics, and one has an aim revolving around the country’s fate, they have to rise above personal advantage,” Nyaklyayeu believes.

We will face dramatic changes. First of all, the reason is that the Belarusian regime has exhausted its potential,” Statkevich warned.

According to the politician, at the moment Alyaksandr Lukashenka has the lowest support of the population ever, and the least backing from Moscow. The trio agreed that Russia would soon try to take total control of Belarus; they claim that the head of state not only fails to safeguard the country’s independence, but contributes to the ‘creeping incorporation’.

World ignoring threat of Russia’s swallowing Belarus – The Washington Post

“How can one call this bargaining game in Moscow and Sochi the protection of independence? It is a deal which gives dividends only to criminals in power,” Sannikau stressed.

Therefore, Nyaklyayeu and Sannikau have opted for supporting the candidacy of Mikalai Statkevich in the presidential elections. They also urge all patriotic forcesopposition, ordinary people and even civil servants who are against joining Russia – to consolidate and save Belarus. At the same time, Statkevich admitted his not having any brand new strategy apart from making their followers more active and protesting against election fraud, i.e. the same old story of the year of 2010.

“Apparently, then [in 2010] it was too early, wrong time. You may be aware of the world experience: if 3% of population take to streets, no power holds on,” Statkevich said in an attempt to justify using the same methods that yielded no victory in 2010.

Neither 3% nor 5% will be of help if a team has not developed a clear winning strategy, Pavel Usau, PhD in Political Science, believes. In his opinion, there are no conditions for a democratic election victory, no revolutionary situation, no bodies and opportunities to wage coordinated struggle in present-day Belarus.

“The system controls the entire political space, election procesess and citizens’ activity. The authorities drew conclusions after the events of 2010 and even after the 2017 rallies of ‘parasites’, they will be neutralize or even unget all threats,” Usau warned.

Mikalai Statkevich, as it was 9 years ago, during the so-called liberalization, believes that Lukashenka will not jail political opponents in order not to spoil relations with the West. The politicial calls his previous conviction ‘unconstitutional’ and, therefore, he says it will not prevent him from being registered as a presidential candidate.

“In fact, the authorities have their own interest in registering Statkevich, as they need to create conditions under which the Belarusians will go to polls, i.e. secure appropriate voting turnout,the expert stressed.

And one should keep in mind that it is the wide range of presidential nominees – from radicals to advocates for dialogue and peaceful changes – that might contribute to providing a view of fair elections in Belarus.

Vox populi. What would you ask Alyaksandr Lukashenka about? (ENG video)

Yaraslau Stseshyk/MS,