Election Belarus election. PEOPLE WILL GATHER ON THE October Square IN MINSK
Andrey Sannikov is a wellknown Belarusian diplomat. In the 1980s, he served as representative of the Belarusian Soviet Republic at the United Nations. In the beginning of the 1990s, when Belarus declared its independence, he was an active member of the the newly formed independent adminstration and held the post of deputy foreign minister. Here in an interview about dicatorship, the importance of voting and the role of international observers.
Published on balticworlds.com on december 15, 2010
An interview by our special correspondent, based in Warsaw
The town Mogilau lies 200 km east of Minsk, tha capital of Belarus. I went there on the day of a meeting held by Andrey Sannikov, one of the main democratic candidates in the presidential election to be held on December 19. More than five hundred people had gathered in the House of Culture, opposite the railway-station.
The number is not that important. I spent a whole day in Mogilau, and I spoke to many people – elderly people, young people, married couples. I have been following the political scene in Belarus since the beginning of the 1990s, and must admit that, after many years of stalemate, something has changed in this country.
That I came to witnessnot only in Mogilau, but in other places as well, at other meetings, with other candidates, during this last week before the election. I am not saying that a revolution is approaching in Belarus. However, I do think that it cannot be ruled out.
The following interview with Andrey Sannikov was done in Minsk on December 14.
Andrey Sannikov is a wellknown Belarusian diplomat. In the 1980s, he served as representative of the Belarusian Soviet Republic at the United Nations. In the beginning of the 1990s, when Belarus declared its independence, he was an active member of the the newly formed independent adminstration and held the post of deputy foreign minister.
Today Mr. Sannikov is supported by several respected Belarusian politicians from the first years of independence, among them Stanislau Sushkievitch, the first Head of State in 1991.
Peter Johnsson: Mr. Sannikov, yesterday, at the meeting in Mogilau, you said that in Belarus we are dealing with the last dictatorship in Europe. What, in your opinion, are the chances that we will get rid of this “last European dictatorship” as a result of the election
Andrey Sannikov: I believe it is a realistic possibility, and the chances are growing every day. This dictatorship has proven itself to be absolutely bankrupt in all areas, and I think people are really fed up with the empty promises of Lukashenka. This time people are more active than before, they see more hope and they strongly support alternative candidates.
PJ: If you compare the campaign four years ago when Aleksjandr Milinkievitch was running as one of the main opponents of Lukashenka…?
AS: You know, I feel for the first time for very long that people are getting involved. What happened before was that they observed what other people might do: If the opposition will do something good, if they win, we will support them; if they do not succeed, then sorry, let it be.
This time many new people have come to support the opposition – including me, when I founded my initiative group. People who never before have participated in any kind of oppositional activity. Now they are becoming strong leaders of local organizations, something that we lacked before.
PJ: A new civil society is emerging?
AS: Yes, it is a new civil society which is being created during this presidential campaign. That’s what is new in our country.
PJ: How many would you say are currently involved in is this kind of direct activity, supporting the democratic opposition?
AS: I would say tens of thousands. When I started my campaign I had the backing of around two thousand, now probably ten thousand people are engaged in this campaign. And I am only one of several oppositional candidates.
PJ: Today is Tuesday, the voting has started. You, and most of the oppositional candidates are strongly against the voting before December 19. Why?
AS: Because it is well known to everyone that early voting in our country is used to rig the elections. The soldiers are being told openly that they will not see the voting ballots. They will sign and they will be told that we knew how to use your ballot paper. In a school I visited today, to pupils, being 12 years old, were told by head-master that they should tell their parents to go for the early voting – if they don’t, you will get bad marks. In a normal democratic country, early voting is no threat to democracy. Here, in Belarus, we know that early voting is the main way of rigging. As is well known in the EU, I demanded that international observers be allowed to observe, all around the clock, what happens to the ballots cast before December 19 – and, which is also well known in all countries, my request was denied.
PJ: Do you think international observers will have any chances to check what happens to votes cast from today until December 19?
AS: The international observers have, according what I know, required that they have the opportunity to see every ballot and control the whole process. If they will not be able to do that they will feel free to say that the election was rigged.
PJ: To make my question a bit more accurate: Do you think there is any chance that the result of the election will not be falsified?
AS: Of course not, that is out of question.
PJ: It means that you exclude there will be a second round?
AS: In any normal democracy where you have nine candidates running for the presidency and we are told that one of those candidates has won in the first round we might know that it is not true. Now, we will protest and we know that society will support us in this.
PJ: Do you exclude the possibility of Lukashenka telling on December 20 that there has to be a second round as he has not got the necessary 50 percent plus one vote in order to be reelected.
AS: Let me put it this way: Any dictator would make anything in order to avoid such a verdict.
PJ: What you are saying is that the voting from today on and on the 19th is very important, but it will not determine if you will have a second round or not in the Belarusian presidential elections of 2010?
AS: Voting is important, I agree with you, It is very important. But in a country without democracy, it is people in the street who will decide of the outcome. They must go and vote. They must meet with their friends who also voted. Then they will realize that the result was falsified and they will be upset, they will know that their votes were stolen and they will be ready to protest against this falsification.
PJ: And how big, do you think, is the support for Lukashenka within Belarusian society?
AS: Today he might be supported by twenty, perhaps twenty-five percent of the voters.
PJ: And during the elections 2006 and 2001, you do not think even a small majority supported him?
AS: I am quite sure he had not the support of a majority. During the last ten years he was never supported by 50 percent of the society.
PJ: What you are telling me is this one thing: Voting is important but decisive is the amount of people that will gather on the October Squarein Minsk on December 19. What will be the critical mass in order to succeed? How many must assemble on the square?
AS: We nearly reached the critical mass five years ago, during the then election. I do think that 50.000, perhaps 60.000 people on the square is enough to start effective protests. But even 100.000 people is a possible figure this time. Our demand will be a second round. I can assure you that no single person from the opposition advocates any use of force. It is our moral advantage over the dictatorship that we advocate a peaceful transformation, and I am sure that during this election it will become true.