Monday, July 20, 2015

Lukashenka’s Belarus on the Brink of an Explosion, Warsaw Paper Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – Probably no Western country pays more attention to Belarus than Poland, and consequently, it is worth noting when a leading Warsaw newspaper says that the situation in Belarus is rapidly deteriorating and that Alyaksandr Lukashenka could face a popular revolt before the end of this year.

            In an article in “Rzeczpospolita,” Rusłan Szoszyn writes that “it is not excluded” that as a result of mounting social and economic problems, “the Belarusian ruler could have to deal with popular risings before the end of this year” (; in Russian, at

            When you visit Belarus, he says, everything looks fine and the people look happy, Szozsyn continues, “but when you begin to speak with residents of Belarusian cities, it turns out that the smiles you see are not always sincere.” That is not surprising because there is little reason for happiness among them.

            According to Belarusian government statistics, more than one in 50 workers in that country have not been paid at all over the last six months – a figure, Szozsyn says, that understates the problem -- and those who have received pay are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet because their wages are so low and prices are rising.

            But even those who have not been paid are afraid to quit their jobs lest they fall under the procisions of a new law that requires those who “don’t pay taxes or work less than 183 days in a calendar year” to pay a special fee to the state. Most Belarusians can’t afford to do that and so they work for Lukashenka for nothing.

            Belarusian factories producing cars, tractors and buses have stopped, Gennady Fedynich, the head of the independent trade union movement there, says, because Russia in crisis no longer has the funds to purchase them. Employees work only a few days a week, receive commensurate pay, and watch as the parking lots of these firms fill up with unsold goods.

            Fedynich says that “the level of social tension is growing with each passing day, and an explosion in the form of mass risings of workers is only a question of time.” One reason for his conclusion: workers in plants throughout Belarus have asked his group for legal help to be able to challenge the authorities.

            In the run-up to the presidential “elections” in September – and Szoszyn puts that event in quotes – the worsening economic situation means that workers in heavy industry are liking to join young people and the intelligentsia in protesting against the Lukashenka regime and the state into which it has driven them.
            That could give such protests a weight they have not had in the past.

            According to Belarusian political analyst Valery Karbalevich, Szoszyn says, “the level of trust in the authorities in Belarus in fact is declining; and as a result, it is impossible to exclude any scenario of the development of events during ‘the presidential elections.’”

            That must be a worry for Lukashenka and his regime given that color revolutions elsewhere have often been touched off by elections, the results of which have been rigged by the incumbents and which are then challenged by people in the street.

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