Democracy. Russia. CIS.

A “Black Revolution”: Is Moscow planning to overthrow Aleksandr Lukashenko?

Posted by democratist on October 4, 2010

4th October 2010,

Things are really starting to heat up in anticipation of the Belarusian elections, due on December 19th.

On Sunday October 3rd, Russian President Medvedev released a new video blog criticizing Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s “anti-Russian rhetoric.”

Medvedev stated, “attempts to paint the picture of an outside enemy in the public mind have always distinguished the Belarus leadership. In the past this role was given to America, Europe, and the West in general. Now Russia has been declared one of the key enemies.”

Later he also “tweeted” rather ominously, “The senseless period of tension in relations with Belarus is certain to come to an end.”

This latest salvo in what has been an ongoing Russian media campaign follows claims by Lukashenko on 1st October that the Russian authorities are trying to depose him by supporting his opponents: According to Lukashenko, Belarussian authorities have recently detained a courrier who was trying to smuggle $200,000 for local opposition leaders over the country’s border.

Its is interesting that the Russians have not as yet sought to deny their involvement in this affair, but rather appear to be seeking to justify it.

In Democratist’s opinion, Medvedev’s message demonstrates that the Russians wish to make their position as clear and as public as possible; relations with Belarus will not improve until Lukashenko has gone, and they are actively working towards that goal.

It will be interesting to whether Lukashenko will be able to get the result he needs in December. Traditionally Belarusian elections have been tightly choreographed affairs which have benefitted greatly from Russian rhetorical and media support.  This time things are clearly different, and the forthcoming polls promise to be extraordinarily dirty, with plenty of manipulation, “black-PR”, kompromat and electoral fraud from both sides.

From our perspective, this raises the following initial questions;

1) The extent to which the increasingly isolated Lukashenko will be able to keep things together: How soon will it be before elements from within the administration, including the security forces (overtly or covertly) see the “writing on the wall” and start to defect to the Russian camp? Conversely, which tactics will Lukashenko seek use to shore up his hold on power?

ii) The methods the Russians will use to destabilize him: While the media campaign is already underway, there are also many other techniques that could be brought into play. Will they get behind a specific candidate? If so, who? Will they be looking to bribe Belarussian Election commission staff in order to get the “right” result, as they did in Ukraine during the second round of the Presidential elections in November 2004? Will they seek to use local patronage networks to “get out the vote”? Which of the many well -established techniques of electoral fraud might they be seeking to employ?

iii) If Lukashenko does manage to get re-elected (given that he remains quite popular domestically), will the Russians seek to topple him in a subsequent stage-managed parody of a “colour revolution”?

iv) What position is the west likely to take? Will they seek to benefit, and if so, how?

3 Responses to “A “Black Revolution”: Is Moscow planning to overthrow Aleksandr Lukashenko?”

  1. […] evidence is beginning to emerge of the Russian government’s all-but-openly-declared plan to oust President Alexandr Lukashenko during, or shortly after the Belarussian Presidential […]

  2. […] more evidence is emerging for Democratist’s “Black Revolution” thesis (the idea that Russia is preparing to overthrow Aleksandr Lukashenko in a coup dressed up as a […]

  3. A friend writes….

    “Interesting thoughts on Belarus. From my experience, I see it as fairly unlikely any even ‘black’ revolution could occur. Though I’d love to be proved wrong.

    I think that scenario (1) overestimates Russia’s influence, (2) overestimates the opposition (3) and underestimates the apathy in the country in general.

    You’ve got to get people fired up to have some sort of revolution, and for various historical reasons, Belarusians seem very apathetic. It’s a very heterogeneous country with negligible minorities (no North-South split like Kyrgyzstan, or East-West like Ukraine) nor large differences in standard of living (ie. no oligarchs). They have food, cinemas, the trains work, and they have jobs. They have little history to draw on, which in turn could give them something to aspire to.

    That could change if there were large opposition groups with resources that could mobilise people. From the BNF, Christian Democrats to the Communists, various ‘civic campaigners’, there is no unity and noone a majority can rally around.

    You also mention Andrei Sannikov and Stanislau Shushkevich as pro-Russian, but they’re both pro-EU and are seen as Westernisers worth supporting by groups in Poland, Lithuania etc.
    I don’t know of any other person with any clout or resources the Russians could support.

    I think if the opposition managed to put up one candidate and they managed to get him a respectable number and then things got violent/or very large protest wise in post-election protests then something is possible. But I’m not sure any of those 3 things are possible.

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