Lukashenka is ill! That is reflected in the latest events, his behaviour during the Victory Day celebrations and his absence for several days. Is he nearing the end? If so, there is no reason to rejoice prematurely; Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya may be awaited in Minsk by ordinary citizens, but surely not by the government, parliament, KGB, militia or army.
Moreover, of Belarus’s neighbours, it is Russia that has the most influence on this country. Alexander Lukashenka secured himself against Russian special services with a sophisticated network of his own services, but in the case of his death Vladimir Putin will certainly do everything to ensure that the Belarusian president’s successor obliges him. Or at least that he doesn’t make attempts to abandon the idea of merging the two countries.
Except that the departure of a dictator comes as a shock in every country. Usually a power struggle begins and its outcome can be unpredictable. It is also to be remembered that in the case of Belarus, after the 2020 elections, the society showed an unexpected strength by mobilising itself and organising huge protests against electoral fraud. The protests were suppressed by force but it is difficult to imprison the majority of a 10-milion population. It cannot be ruled out that the shock of the dictator’s departure will trigger a huge wave of demonstrations.
In late 2010 the author of this article, along with three other Polish journalists, interviewed Lukashenka. The talk broke the record for length – four hours and a half! The dictator (that’s how he introduced himself: “I’m the last dictator in Europe”) was asked if it was good that he ruled the country all by himself – because what would happen, if he was taken ill? He replied that it was a terrible situation, that Belarus needs democracy and needs political parties but he “wouldn’t found them himself”. Undoubtedly he was right only over the next dozen or so tears he did nothing to make the situation change.
But first of all we have to ask ourselves one question: is Alexander Lukashenka really ill? For there have been suggestions that we are dealing with a test or a trial, that he was pretending to find out how his men in Minsk would behave. This, however, is unlikely.
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By Piotr Kościński
Translated by: Dominik Szczęsny-Kostanecki