Post Elections Special; Protestors camping out in Minsk, America shouts down the election. Ukraine speaks out ahead of their own elections
From the Top
Lukashenka continues on
From the office of the preident and various other sources
Participating in the press conference were more than 500 Belarusian and foreign reporters, most of them representing foreign mass communication media. The event was covered by nearly 70 TV channels the world over.
Given the fact, that the press conference was held soon after the presidential election, it was attended by 300 international and domestic observers, chief executives of government bodies, members of NGOs, diplomats.
Lukashenko scorned the opposition during the meeting, calling the election “honest and democratic” and saying "Our people independently made its choice, convincingly demonstrating who we, Belarusians, are and who wears trousers in the house".
“The revolution that was talked abot so much … has failed,” he told a nationally televised news conference.
“You have seen our opposition, and if you are reasonable people you have been convinced that it’s worthless,” Lukashenko said.
He repeated his allegations that the opposition is backed by Western forces plotting to bring him down.
In a show of defiance not seen in Belarus in years, thousands of people massed in Oktyabrskaya Square after the polls closed Sunday night, ignoring a ban on election day rallies.
Authorities made no move to disperse protesters Sunday, but busloads of riot police stood by on a nearby street.
Lukashenko called on the opposition to halt protests, saying the vote showed that he has overwhelming support. “We must accept the decision of the people,” he said.
He asserted that yesterday’s protest leaders were in the pay of Western ambassadors and claimed there was no crackdown because the opposition is weak.
“Who was there to fight with? Nobody, understand? That’s why we gave them the opportunity to show themselves, even though it was illegal.”
Lukashenko said he was “not afraid of further isolation,” adding: “If the EU wants problems here, it will have them.”
Alexander Lukashenko continues accepting congratulations
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin congratulated Alexander Lukashenko on winning the presidential poll. Cultural workers and public figures, labor collectives, ordinary citizens of Belarus, Russia, the CIS member-states and foreign countries congratulate Alexander Lukashenko on his well-deserved victory.
In particular, first president of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin, Twice Hero of the Soviet Union, a space pilot of the USSR, Colonel-General Piotr Klimuk, a deputy of the State Duma of Russia, Nobel Prizewinner Zhores Alferov and historian Vladimir Soloviov have already sent Alexander Lukashenko their congratulations.
“I am glad that today the Republic of Belarus successfully overcomes hardships and difficulties and the leadership of the republic in practice shows concern for people and creates favorable conditions for decent life and effective work”, Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Aleskiy II writes in his letter of congratulation.
Heads of all subjects of the Russian Federation have congratulated Alexander Lukashenko.
Thousands of ordinary Belarusians have already congratulated their leader. Many telegrams come from citizens of Russia and Ukraine as well as from the Belarusians living abroad. Alexander Lukashenko continues accepting congratulations.
Election observers differ on Belarus vote
The country's Central Election Commission announced earlier in the day that incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won a landslide victory in Sunday's vote, securing a third term.
More than 1,200 international observers monitored the vote, with the OSCE and the CIS sending the largest groups of election observers.
"The election complied with Belarus' election law and voter turnout was high. CIS observers view the Belarussian presidential vote as open and transparent," CIS observation mission chief Vladimir Rushailo told a press conference in Minsk.
"Belarus created the legal and organizational environment needed for monitoring the vote, which indicates that the election was open," Rushailo said.
However, the OSCE observation mission was critical of the vote.The Belarus election "failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections," it said in a press release. But it added: "Election day was calm and orderly."
Also on Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement approving of the Belarus election as fair and legitimate.
"There is every reason to believe that the election has been held in conformity with universally-recognized standards, and its legitimacy is beyond any doubt," the statement said. Enditem
Press digests Belarus vote
Opposition papers point to unrealistic turnout figures, with one saying that the result "hardly amounted to an elegant victory".
Several commentators in neighbouring Russia and Ukraine seem to accept the Lukashenko win and prefer to ask why the Belarus opposition fared so badly.
BELARUSSIAN PRO-GOVERNMENT SOVETSKAYA BELORUSSIYA
No sensation has taken place! Few had any initial doubts about Alexander Lukashenko's convincing victory in the presidential election. Even his opponents share this viewpoint.
BELARUSSIAN PRO-GOVERNMENT NARODNAYA HAZETA
It is important that the Belarussians not only voted for the incumbent, but by doing so espoused the political course aimed at building a strong and flourishing state for the people.
BELARUSSIAN OPPOSITION BUSINESS WEEKLY BELORUSY I RYNOK
Although the presidential election results unveiled on 19 March held few surprises, they hardly amounted to 'an elegant victory'. The hysteria whipped up by the authorities in the run-up to the presidential ballot goes to show that things in the calm and tolerant Belarus are not as straightforward as hitherto thought. It can be assumed that the 2006 presidential election in Belarus might trigger significant shifts in the perception of all key elements of society or has already done so.
BELARUSSIAN OPPOSITION WEEKLY BELGAZETA
On the morning of 19 March, when the Belarussian people was about to make its historic choice, all Belarussian television channels carried the following two pieces of news. The first report said that as of 10 am, 40% of people had cast their votes. The second report quoted an exit poll... saying that Lukashenko got 83.5% of the vote. After such a 'bracing morning' only an election observer from the Commonwealth of the Independent States could have hoped for any intrigue.
BELARUSSIAN KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA V BELORUSSII
It became clear from the start that the authorities not only intended to hold on to power but also notch up a record. The initiative group of the incumbent collected an impossible number of signatures (1.9m, up from 400,000 in 2001). More than 31% of Belarussians chose to take part in early voting (twice the 2001 percentage).
VLADIMIR VORSOBIN IN RUSSIA'S KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA
To the great relief of the Kremlin and annoyance of the West, everything is again clear in Belarus. Even the most hopeless dreamers can relax. Yesterday Alexander Lukashenko won 81% of the votes and extended his presidency for another five years. As a minimum.
ALEXANDER RAHR IN RUSSIA'S ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA
Any pressure on Belarus will cause a harsh counter-reaction from Moscow. I think that in Europe this is understood better than in the US. In the European Union no-one wants to get into a conflict with Russia over Belarus.
ALEKSEY ARBATOV IN RUSSIA'S NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA
A falsification of the results most likely took place - there is no such thing as a 93% turnout at free elections... Therefore no-one in Europe or in Russia believes these elections... Had an opposition leader won, Russia could have run into serious complications - like the ones currently experienced with Ukraine, or even bigger.
UKRAINE'S FAKTY I KOMMENTARII
Not a single complaint was received by the Central Electoral Commission as of Monday morning concerning the election organisation or vote count. Even Western observers had to admit that there was no need for Lukashenko to rig or falsify the vote. The incumbent is very popular with the absolute majority of the local population. Opposition candidates were supported mostly by students and the intelligentsia.
First of all, the socio-economic situation [in Belarus] did not prompt a revolution. Secondly, the margin of 75% between Lukashenko and his opponents is impressive. Thirdly, the Lukashenko regime is much less corrupt than the regime of [former Ukraine President Leonid] Kuchma, and threats from Washington to freeze the foreign accounts of the president's son-in-law and the wife of the interior minister will not scare Lukashenko or his uniformed agencies.
(Note: The photo is from an article written about Belarus by Keli Dailey in 2004. You can check out the article about Belarus from the perspective of the Minsk Metro "HERE".
Belarus: So, where is the Revolution?
Where is the interfering and meddling hand of the West? What colour will the Revolution be this time?
Isn’t anyone going to back up the defeated opposition candidate, Alexander Milinkevich, who has called for street protests (concentrations of terrorists and vandals) and who has deried the elections as unfair? After all, Milinkevich achieved a hefty six per cent of the vote. He must have been popular, so popular in fact that he got exactly the same percentage of the vote as many analysts predicted, while Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected as President with some 82.6%, in a 92.6% turnout.
Vladimir Rushailo, head of a CIS monitoring committee, stated yesterday that his teams of monitors did not see any serious violations in this election.
Alexander Lukashenko begins his third term knowing his country and his people are behind him, after a free and fair democratic election which saw the three opposition candidates garner less than 12% of the vote between them. Apart from the 6% of Milinkevich (Allied Opposition/Unified Democratic Forces), Sergei Gaidukevich (Liberal Democrat) managed 3.5% and Aleksandr Kozulin (Social Democrat), 2.3%.
Why did Alexander Lukashenko win? Because he has guaranteed a swift and silky-smooth transition from a controlled to a market economy, he has avoided the hiccoughs felt in other ex-Soviet states and he has maintained the stability of the economy, of the work market and has guaranteed the lot of the average citizen, from the schoolchild to the pensioner.
If the meddlesome and interfering West bothered to employ analysts who had any idea what they were speaking about and did not work from their offices in comfortable western capitals and if their so-called free press stopped telling lies (a habit that has become worse since the end of the Cold War), we would not hear such ludicrous terms as “Lukashenko the Dictator” and absurd claims that the E.U. will impose sanctions.
Why? Because Lukashenko won? Certainly Moscow will be able to match clout for clout the sanctions imposed by the European Union, that clique of self-righteous former imperialist colonialist states whose recent history is marred by the stain of slavery and the wholesale slaughter of populations in developing countries. Who is the European Union to speak?
As for the USA, did Lukashenko invade a sovereign state, slaughter 100.000 people, wire up prisoners’ genitals with electrodes, urinate on their food and set dogs on them? Or did he mind his own business performing good governance in his own country? Compare this with the “democratic” calls for civil disobedience by the heavily defeated Milinkevich.
Belarus Opposition Reports 100 Activists Arrested in Minsk
The opposition activists are being kept at a detention centre in the outskirts of Minsk, the lawyer for the Belarus People’s Front party, Alexei Yanukevich, said over the phone.
No official comment has been received so far, TASS added. However, not a single arrest has been reported on the October square in the center of Minsk, where opposition supporters have been rallying since late Sunday, when it initial reports indicated that Alexander Lukashenko had won the elections.
(Note: For several other stories about the tent protestors (and in general, pretty much all of the anti-Lukashenka rhetoric), please have a look at today's Charter '97. Also, the BR23 Blog has a lot of stuff from televised news and pictures as well.
Dozens of Protesters Arrested in Belarus
James Hill for The New York Times
Opposition demonstrators jumped and danced to keep warm at the small tent settlement in central Minsk as they continued to protest the official results of Sunday presidential elections.
Protesters gathered for a third day in October Square here after a couple of hundred of them defied official warnings and camped out on the square overnight, unmolested by the police.
The arrests, however, appeared to have their intended effect as the size of the protests dwindled considerably after as many as 10,000 assembled on Sunday night in one of the largest public expressions of dissent since Mr. Lukashenko took office in 1994. By this evening, by contrast, only 2,000 to 3,000 appeared, undeterred by the snow, wind and subfreezing temperatures.
Anatoly V. Lebedko, an opposition leader and ally of the main opposition challenger, Aleksandr Milinkevich, was arrested early this morning near the square. He appeared in court later today and was sentenced to 15 days in jail for having organized an unsanctioned protest, his aides said.
The total number of arrests remained unclear, and the Interior Ministry did not respond to requests for information. But Mr. Milinkevich said that 108 protesters had been arrested overnight and today.
Among other prominent leaders were Aleksandr Dobrovolsky and Alyaksei Yanukevich, both close advisers to Mr. Milinkevich. Their fate remained unclear tonight. Mr. Milinkevich's two sons were detained early today while trying to bring food and clothes to those camped overnight, but quickly released.
"What the authorities are trying to do is arrest them one by one so there is no forceful attempt to clear the square while the television cameras are here," another Milinkevich adviser, Viktor Ivashkevich, said in an interview at the square today, where the spirited, if dwindling, crowd continued to wave flags and play music, demanding that Mr. Lukashenko go.
Mr. Lukashenko's election to a third, five-year term has been condemned as illegitimate in Europe and the United States but defended by Russia, this country's largest neighbor and ally. Mr. Lukashenko, who the government says received 82 percent of the vote, has responded with defiance.
In an appearance on Monday, he dismissed criticism that the police were going after campaign workers — including as many as 300 who were arrested in the days before the vote — and said the authorities had an obligation to arrest anyone who violated the law. "The law is the law for everybody," he said.
Mr. Lukashenko said his government had allowed the opposition a chance to demonstrate, even though he called their assembly a provocation, but the arrests seemed to indicate that his patience was wearing thin.
The police, in uniform and plain clothes, arrested many protesters as they came to or left the square, including Mr. Lebedko and Mr. Dobrovolsky, who were stopped as they tried to return early today, said a deputy of theirs, Lyudmilla Gryaznova, who was with them.
Mr. Milinkevich, who, officially, received only 6 percent of the vote, urged the protesters to continue. But in a reflection of his concern over the risk of his own arrest, he emphasized that he was not organizing the protesters. Even among his staff, there were signs of divisions over whether he should encourage the protesters to hold the square, risking a confrontation with the police.
"We stayed here all night," Mr. Milinkevich told the protesters this afternoon, after moving through the makeshift camp, which consisted of a dozen tents pitched on the cold, hard tiles. "It was the night of the birth of democracy in Belarus. It is a demonstration that we are people."
This evening, he urged people to gather each evening and again en masse on Saturday, the anniversary of the declaration of a short-lived independent Republic of Belarus in 1918 that is celebrated by nationalists here, but not by Mr. Lukashenko's government.
"Call your friends, neighbors," Mr. Milinkevich said. "We want to show on the 25th that we are a force and that we will win."
Demonstrators Continue Protest in Belarus
Opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich, who has denounced the election that gave Lukashenko a new five-year term as a fraud and called for a new vote, urged demonstrators to keep up daily protests and called for a major show of strength Saturday.
"Come here every day to speak of freedom," Milinkevich said, speaking in the glow from TV cameras after the lighting on Oktyabrskaya Square was shut off, plunging protesters into darkness and adding to concerns of a crackdown by security forces.
"We will stay here until the 25th, and on the 25th we will gather here to fight for our future," said Milinkevich, who insists he is not the leader of the demonstrations.
Saturday is the anniversary of the declaration of independence of the first, short-lived Belarusian republic in 1918, and a traditional day for Lukashenko's opponents to hold protests.
"The authorities want to destroy this small city of freedom," he said, speaking as the crowd swelled on the third straight night of protests, though it fell far short of the 10,000 who gathered at the first rally Sunday night after polls closed. "We will not let them do it."
The opposition has set up about 15 tents to try to lay the groundwork for around-the-clock actions resembling Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution that forced a rerun of a fraudulent presidential election.
Milinkevich spoke shortly after ambassadors from European Union countries, including Britain, France, Latvia and Lithuania, visited the tent camp to show their support for opponents of a leader who has been branded a dictator by the West.
International observers have said the vote was neither free nor fair, and Europe's main human rights organization said it was a "farce." The United States has called for a new election.
Russian Foreign Ministry slams OSCE bias on Belarus poll
"We believe that the biased nature of the verdict of the monitoring mission has again confirmed the importance of beginning, at last, focused work to correct shortcomings in the election monitoring practice," Mikhail Kamynin said referring to a decision made by foreign ministers of the 55-nation security grouping in December last year.
He expressed hope that the final report of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on the elections in Belarus "would be more balanced and unbiased."
According to Kamynin, "elections cannot be ideal and are held with certain imperfections and flaws in all countries."
He said the negative assessment by OSCE observers had been made by those who declared the Belarusian regime undemocratic.
OSCE observes said Sunday's presidential election in Belarus, which resulted in the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko for a third term in a landslide victory, failed to meet accepted democratic standards.
However, observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose association of former Soviet states, said the poll was "fair and open."
More than 500 OSCE monitors from 38 countries attended the elections and are expected to submit a final report in six to eight weeks.
Former collective farm boss Lukashenko, who Washington has dubbed the last dictator in Europe, romped home with 82.6% of the votes. Despite criticism in the West for authoritarian tendencies, Lukashenko is known to have support in his homeland for providing relative economic stability in comparison with other former Soviet states.
Foreign ministry, Yushchenko to support OSCE findings on Belarus elections
On Monday evening, opposition and democracy activists pitched five tents on October Square in Minsk, the capital of neighboring Belarus. They claim that the results of presidential elections held the day before were falsified.
The Central Elections Commission of that country declared Aleksandr Lukashenka the winner with 82% of the vote. Alexander Milinkevych, the leader of the opposition was officially credited with 6%. In international reactions to the election, President Viktor Yushchenko said that Ukraine will stand by the findings of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OSCE said that its 400 observers found `"substantial evidence" of fraud and declared that the elections were not "free and fair."
MFA spokesman Vasyl Filipchuk made the statement on Tuesday. At the same time, Ukraine does not support the isolation of Belarus, Filipchuk was reported as saying. He also said that Kyiv expects official Minsk to take concrete steps toward democratic transformations.
Fallout for Ukrainian journalists and democracy activists in the aftermath of Sunday's presidential elections in neighboring Belarus.
On Monday, video tapes were seized from a Novy Kanal news crew at the Belarusian border as it attempted to re-enter Ukraine. Also on Monday, 5 Kanal learned that activists from the Natsionalney Aliants who were arrested will be deported from Belarus. The foreign ministry confirmed that the alliance members were placed on the Minsk-Kyiv train on Monday evening.
Activists from another group - Studentske Bratstvo - protested on Monday at the border with Belarus in Rivne oblast. They demonstrated against the arrest of five of their members in Belarus on March 13th. They are demanding the release of their activists reportedly still behind bars in Belarus.
Ukraine calls on Belarus to open talks with opposition
"We call on Belarusian authorities to safeguard its people's right to a peaceful gathering ... to be tolerant and avoid any forceful actions against its citizens," Foreign Ministry spokesman Vasily Filipchuk told reporters. The Belarusian activists have set up a small tent camp on a main Minsk square that echoes the much larger tent city that sprouted in Ukraine in 2004.
The Orange Revolution protests were triggered by widespread election fraud in a Ukrainian presidential election, which led to that election being declared invalid. A court ordered a revote, which was won by the pro-western candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. Filipchuk urged Lukashenko to open talks with the opposition and take steps toward democracy.
"Democratic society is waiting for concrete steps from Belarusian authorities, directed at bringing democracy to every aspect of life," he said, reading an official statement. Filipchuk added that Ukraine shares international concerns that Sunday's presidential vote was neither free nor fair, but Kiev does not support Western calls to isolate its neighbor.
"We have very deep historic relations with Belarus and last year we had active trade," Filipchuk said. "For us, this country is close and a nation that deeply concerns us ... Our position is that dialogue between Belarus and the world community must be held so that Belarus will become more open."
Yushchenko promised to be a voice of democracy in the post-Soviet area, but he has taken a far more cautious role toward neighboring Belarus than his other post-Soviet ally, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who also came to power after mass protests against election fraud. Saakashvili has been a harsh critic of Lukashenko.
The Foreign Ministry said it was particularly concerned about the safety of Ukrainian citizens in Belarus . Some young Ukrainian activists, who played a key role in whipping up enthusiasm for the Orange Revolution, have gone to Minsk to aid the Belarusian opposition. Ukraine 's media has also descended on Belarus , with the protests leading many news programs here, reports the AP.
U.S. refuses to accept election results in Belarus
PEOPLE'S DAILY (CHINA)
"The United States does not accept the results of the election . ..We support the call for a new election," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
the election was flawed by a "climate of fear" and hinted penalties such as travel restrictions "are things we will look at."
"We support the call for a new election," McClellan said. "The United States will continue to stand with the people of Belarus."
"A series of punitive measures will be discussed with the EU,"
The administration has peppered hard-line Belarus with restrictions on travel to the United States of individuals suspected of human-rights abuses and barred meetings between high-level U.S. and Belarus officials.
The EU said it was likely to impose sanctions, notably a wider travel ban on top political leaders in Belarus, including Lukashenko.
By contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Lukashenko in a telegram and said the results would help strengthen the alliance of the two former Soviet nations.
McClellan made his remarks after Belarus Central Election Commission chief Lidiya Yermoshina said in Minsk, Belarus capital, on Monday that Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet Republic since 1994, won a convincing victory according to a complete preliminary ballot count.
Russia’s foreign ministry disagrees with new US democracy-by-force strategy
The document expands on the US claim for a “pro-active democracy disseminator in the countries bordering on Russia”.
“They would try to convince us that the boosted-from-outside democratic progress in the neighboring countries is wholesome for the local citizens. This is a rather pretentious “explanation”, namely, that if Russia “hinders” the democratic development, this might compromise Russia’s relations not only with the USA but also with Europe”, the Russian foreign ministry believes.
“The strategy” names a “transformation democracy” its main objective regardless of the growing criticism that the intrusion and occupation of Iraq turned out serious military and political failures for the US. “The US policy is to scan for and support democratic movements and institutes in every country and culture with the ultimate goal to eradicate tyranny in the world”, the document said.
“Democracy can be promoted, but every country goes its own way to democracy just like the United States have been doing, allowing for historical and political peculiarities. Attempts of artificial and especially forcible implanting of democracy are not only doomed to failure but are also fraught with the danger to discredit the idea itself”, Russia’s foreign ministry believes.
The Russian foreign ministry made a supposition that “there can not but appear a feeling that popular slogans are used merely to pursue own interests”.
The White House is ready to rage and fume against Belarus
The Bush Administration issued a warning about “restrictive measures” that may be taken against the authorities of an independent state if the presidential election in Belarus fails to comply with the international standards, from the point of view of the White House. In other words, the election will not comply with the White House standards if the opposition candidate fails to win. Tom Casey, an official representative of the U.S. Department of State, was quoted as saying: “The United States is calling again on the Belarussian government to stop using repressions against the political campaigns and groups of civil society. The Belarussian government should also respect the rights of Belarussian citizens.” He also spoke about twelve assistants of the opposition presidential candidate Alexander Milinkevich, they were detained by the police on March 7 and March 8. It was an act of repression and the human rights abuse, according to the State Department.
“The United States shares the concern of the European Union over the situation in Belarus. Along with the E.U., the U.S. will be ready to take further restrictive measures against the guilty party if the elections fail to comply with the international commitments of Belarus,” says the statement by Casey.
“The Belarussian authorities” represented by Alexander Lukashenko have not yet responded to the U.S. statement. Meanwhile, the position of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus on the death of Slobodan Milosevic is quite clear. “The Hague Tribunal ceased to be an international institution of law and justice and turned into the “European Abu-Ghraib. The resilience of a man and the principles of a politician do not fit the plans of the architects of a new world order,” said a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of Belarus.
The Prosecutor General’s Office of Belarus says there are no plans to rig the coming election, and so far there have been no violations whatsoever during the election campaign. “Judging by the results of inspections and reports analysis indicate that citizens, political parties, and other political groups have the real opportunity to carry out a free and comprehensive discussion of the candidates’ programs, and conduct an election campaign by means of rallies, meetings, and the media,” says the statement released by Pyetr Miklashevich, Prosecutor General of Belarus.
As regards the “restrictions” and other “ways of putting pressure” on the opposition, the Belarussian prosecutors stick to the law “that is tough but that is the law.” “Some presidential candidates commit illegal actions for the purpose of drawing additional attention in the course of the election campaign. They call on the people to take part in unauthorized mass meetings and thus force the law enforcement agencies to take steps for putting an end to their unlawful activities,” says the statement.
On Monday, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko formally accepted the credentials from the Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Alexander Surikov. The Belarussian president asked the diplomat to advise the Russian president and Foreign Ministry that the situation in Belarus is “stable and normal.” President Lukashenko also expressed gratitude to the Russian Foreign Ministry for its support at the international scene.