The Belarusian opposition has “lost the streets” and cannot fight against the authorities, ex-presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said. The activists who have gone underground hope to win over the security officials, but the security officials do not want to repeat the fate of the Ukrainian Berkut in the event of a coup d’etat. What will happen to Lukashenka’s political opponents in the near future?
The Belarusian opposition lost in street protests due to “lack of funds to fight”. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, ex-presidential candidate, stated this in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Le Temps. “They (the law enforcement agencies of Belarus) have weapons, they have the power, so at the moment – yes, we seem to have lost,” Tikhanovskaya said.
But opponents of the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko claim that they are building “structures for tomorrow’s struggle” in order to “exert constant pressure on the regime – until the moment when people are ready to go out again, possibly in spring.”
“The return to democracy will take longer than anticipated … In Belarus, people want to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to think about the day when everything will be fine. Since they were counting on a quick solution, now they are waiting for a fantastic plan, a messiah who will tell them: “Tomorrow we will go out into the street, and the day after tomorrow Lukashenka will leave.” However, there is no such plan, no one can foresee what will happen, “Tikhanovskaya admitted.
Let us remind you that in August last year, immediately after the presidential elections, which Lukashenka was declared the winner (received 80.1% of the votes), mass protests began in the country. Former presidential candidate Tikhanovskaya left the country and already from abroad wrote down appeals to protesters and met with European politicians. The President of Lithuania (this country has provided Tikhanovskaya with political asylum, provides her with housing and security) Gitanas Nauseda nominated the oppositionist for the Nobel Peace Prize.
However, Tikhanovskaya and her entourage cannot boast of real achievements. Tikhanovskaya called the decision of the International Ice Hockey Federation to deprive Belarus of the right to host matches of the World Ice Hockey Championship in 2021 as a “success in the fight against the regime”. “Lukashenka failed to pretend that he had everything under control. This is a victory, because the Belarusians achieved their goal – and they did it together, ”Tikhanovskaya said.
The experts agree that at this stage we can talk about the opposition losing. Minsk political analyst Dmitry Bolkunets recalled that in the past, the opposition promised to take power if 100 thousand people take to the streets. “More than half a million people came out to protest – and nothing happened. Therefore, this is a kind of defeat, ”the expert said.
Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS Countries Vladimir Zharikhin is sure that Tikhanovskaya “did not stand the test of the street.”
“She didn’t lose the street, she lost herself. The opposition lost the street because Tikhanovskaya did not become a political figure, ”
the expert emphasized.
Kirill Koktysh, an associate professor at the Department of Political Theory of MGIMO, believes that a blow to Lukashenko’s opponents was struck by a series shown in Belarus about the intercepted negotiations of the fugitive opposition. “It became obvious that apart from squabbles over money, there was nothing else. And the money was gone very, very substantial. The top of the opposition has considerably enriched itself. From a moral point of view, the new opposition failed to keep its banner clean, ”Koktysh said.
The political scientist regards Tikhanovskaya’s interview as a statement for sponsors, “comfort for donors”. “Some of what she says will be embodied, but rather it will have to do not with political reality, but for the new opposition to support itself somehow, to feed itself. Within the country, they will repeat the fate of the migration of the first nationalist wave of the 1990s. Nobody remembers her anymore, ”Koktysh pointed out.
Bolkunets does not exclude that protests may repeat in the future, but instead of Tikhanovskaya, “someone more sane, a new team that will suit the nomenklatura, society and the opposition” is needed. The success of the protesters is possible if some of the security forces go over to the opposition side. But this is hindered by the fact that among them “no one wants to break the system” so as not to “repeat the fate of the conventional“ Berkut ”.
In the meantime, the protests have gone underground. According to the expert, there are “more than a thousand different underground cells that coordinate local protests.” “In a certain period, this underground can show itself and form powerful columns of movement on the city infrastructure,” warns Bolkunets. Also, the opposition still has support from Western countries, where there are “dozens of organizations and structures that help to undermine the Belarusian system, including with sanctions packages.”
Koktysh, on the other hand, sees no further prospects for protests. “The opposition didn’t have a meaningful program, so everything was predictable and quite logical. The reasoning was on the emotional rejection of the authorities, but without any positive program. The protests of state employees, like the protests of workers, was a deliberate oxymoron, because outside the state, no one really needs social workers, and certainly not in the reality that would arise in the event of the victory of a color revolution, ”the political scientist believes.
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