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Monday, May 09, 2005

 

U.S. News: Belarusians in no rush for change

From U.S. News and World Report:

The opposition remains weak and divided. At a recent gathering in neighboring Lithuania, a frustrated American expert working with the opposition candidates played the Elvis Presley hit with the lyrics "A little less conversation, a little more action please" and told the candidates, "It's going to be the theme song for all of you."

It will also be an uphill battle. The presidential elections next year are expected to be rigged to give Lukashenko a massive majority. "It's not Election Day; it's the day after that's important," says a senior European diplomat. "It's a tossup between Lukashenko staying in forever and a violent overthrow where unpredictably people say they've had enough. [But] there has to be something that is the last straw."

For now, many Belarussians seem to prefer the status quo to the possible alternative, the kind of economic turmoil they have seen befall other former Soviet states. Products here are cheap, the official unemployment rate is low, and the government pays pensions regularly and relatively amply. "Lukashenko has given us a good life," says pensioner Maria Balzevich, 61, who lives in a dilapidated village an hour from the capital. When asked if she misses the Soviet Union, Balzevich looks around her two-room dacha, smiles, and replies, "What do you mean? I still live in the Soviet Union."

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