Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Prelude to a Rigged Election: A Belarus Report

After a week lost to illness, I've returned to blogging duty with the following bad news items about Belarus:

* Opposition Candidate Beaten --- Last week government police beat up then detained presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin, who is challenging incumbent President (read "Dictator") Alexander Lukashenka in the March 19 presidential election. Kazulin, a former rector of Belarusian State University, was simply trying to register for the two-day All-Belarusian People's Assembly, which opened in Minsk on March 2, when plainclothes officers knocked him to the ground, took him out of a hall, and drove him away.

Officers also scuffled with journalists, injuring a Reuters television correspondent. Nina Shydlouskaya, a spokeswoman for Kazulin, told Reuters that he is being held at a police station in Minsk. "He has been beaten up quite badly."

* The Lie Told Ahead of Time --- Certain tricks never grow stale to Communists but with ruthless power at their disposal, why need the Belarussian KGB worry about being novel? The old tricks work just fine. This particular game? Predict something bad, blaming your opposition ahead of time...and then insure your prophesy come true in order to justify increased repression.

Last week, the KGB warned Western journalists journalists that opposition activists are planning to detonate explosives in a crowd at one of their own protests after the March 19 presidential vote and then blame the authorities for the resulting bloodshed, Belapan and Reuters both reported. "Blood and victims would give the protest organizers a free hand to seize the buildings of government agencies and train stations, block railroads in order to paralyze the state," Stsyapan Sukharenka, head of the State Security Committee (KGB) also explained that the plot is to be carried out by activists of nongovernmental organizations aided by "militants" from Georgia, Ukraine, and former Yugoslav republics. "I do not think that after we have made it public they will take such a step. However, we will keep on monitoring the situation and if they take such a risk, we will find the explosives."

* Other KGB Antics --- One of the other opposition presidential candidates, Alyaksandr Milinkevich Milinkevich, told journalists in Minsk that the presidential election campaign in the country has "degenerated into a farce." Milinkevich charged that the authorities intentionally disrupt meetings of his authorized representatives with voters, seize legal campaign material, and pressure his campaign activists to give up political activities. "They grab our activists, take them to police stations, and bring charges against them. Some thugs appear, shove them, and take away mobile phones from them," Milinkevich noted. He said he has harbored no illusions that the campaign would be fair but added that what is going on now "cannot be described in any other way than terrorism." Milinkevich accused the state media of generating "revolution hysteria" and reiterated that the pro-democratic forces are not plotting any revolution.