It's Good to Be the President-For-Life

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Brushing some fitful attempts at revolution aside, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko started the third of an eventual seven (I'm guessing) terms today with some old-fashioned iron-fisted rhetoric.

"They want to humiliate our nation and turn it into another testing ground for a color revolution," he said in a reference to protests that helped oust unpopular governments in other ex-Soviet nations, such as Ukraine's "Orange Revolution."

Lukashenko lashed out at his foes, accusing them of being manipulated by the West.

To be fair, Lukashenko's victory would have come even without the vote-rigging alleged by opposition leaders. His 83% of the vote gave a cushion that Ukraine's luckless Viktor Yanukovych would have killed for. (Possibly literally.)

UPDATE: I guess I wasn't clear on Lukashenko's victory. I don't think he held a fair election, but it wasn't election-day rigging that gave it to him. That's the difference between this race and the Ukraine race, which was close enough for opposition to argue that it was stolen.

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  1. The link for Yanukovych is from the 2004 election. His party just won in 2006 by 10% over its nearest rival, not exactly luckless:

    http://www.cvk.gov.ua/vnd2006/w6p001e.html

  2. spur, thanks for the link. Fortunately, Yushchenko & Yulia Tymoshenko have patched up their differences to form a pro-Western bloc.

    Ukraine bloc

    Yankovich is scary, and with Putin apparently trying to ‘refederate’ many of the old SSRs into another Evil Empire, the Ukraine coalition is good news.

    Considering the games Putin is playing with Iran, it will be interesting to see how the US & EU react to this. I wonder if there will be any quid pro quos along the lines of “lay off giving the Ayatollahs nuke tech, Vladimir, or we’ll let Ukraine into NATO so fast…”

  3. “It’s Good to Be the President-For-Life”

    Hence my plan to cancel the 2008 election…

  4. Unfortunately, Tymoshenko has many neo-fascist connections. The notorious ant-Semite Levko Lukyanenko is one of her associates. “Pro-western” is not all it’s cranked up to be.

  5. It would be okay if he stole elections, if he only embraced liberal values.

    Ha ha.

  6. It would be okay if he was liberal, so long as he stole elections.

  7. I cant believe you repeat this same idiotic conclusion as just about every other news agency in the world! Would he have won anyway!?!?!?! If what? If the other candidates would have been allowed to campaign? If ANY media would have mentioned their names? Or if the security services had not assaulted their campaign workers? Why didnt you write this about Saddams 99,9% victory in Iraq? Wouldnt he have won “anyway” in a free election? I am dissappointed to read this here.

  8. Get a grip Viggo. Anyone who knows anything about Belarus–as opposed to just sucking heartfelt ideological platitudes out of your fingers–knows that Lukashenko enjoys broad popular support. So did Stalin. So did Hitler. Life is complicated.

  9. I do think Viggo raises a good point, though.

    Certainly, in the short term, the pessimists are right. Lukashenko, like many other strongmen, is popular for now. The question is not whether giving his opponents a few months of freedom (duration of the campaign) would be enough to erode that popularity. The question is whether his popularity could be sustained indefinitely in a free society. My guess is not.

    Mubarak in Egypt is also said to be popular enough that he could win an election without rigging it. But the question is not whether he could win an election without rigging. The question is whether he could also win subsequent elections if he loosened his grip and allowed free and open debate, as well as the emergence of new respected figures that would undoubtedly result from liberalization in all sectors (economic, social, political, cultural, etc.).

  10. Thoreau:

    All indications are that if Mubarak loosened hs grip, the Muslim Brotherhood might come to power.

  11. All indications are that if Mubarak loosened hs grip, the Muslim Brotherhood might come to power.

    I have this theory that Mubarak wants it that way.

    See, if you’re a dictator seeking American support, you need to convince Uncle Sam that bad things will happen if you ever allow a free and open election. If Uncle Sam believes that your most likely successors would be secular liberals, he won’t have much reason to back you up. But, if Uncle Sam believes that your most likely successors would be anti-Western and Islamic fundamentalists, then he is likely to conclude that you need to remain there.

    This conspiracy theory goes a long way toward explaining Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

  12. Thoreau-

    The Palestinians are really acting your comspiracy theory out.

  13. Dr T,
    I have another theory, the ones who are most militant in fighting a secular dictator, or a dictator of another religion, (within a religious country) are most likely going to be religious individuals.

    Thus when a dictator is removed the initial people taking the helm will most likely be religious nutballs. But then their hold will weaken over time.

    I really don’t have anything to back that up, except that appears to me to be what is happening in Iraq, what happened in Spain back in the day, and what happened in Iran.

    I think if the Saudi Royal family were took down, Saudi Arabi would go high and to the complete religious right, but then over time they would simmer.

    I think the Palestinians would simmer quicker, if left unantagonized by Israel, but then the religious nut jobs would seek and antagonizing from Israel to maintain power.

  14. Thus when a dictator is removed the initial people taking the helm will most likely be religious nutballs. But then their hold will weaken over time.

    So, your explanation for Iran is…? Or post-Soviet Taliban…?

    Or does “over time” mean greater than 30 years?

  15. If you look at Iran, the “reformists” have far more popular support than the “hard liners”, which is why the “hard liners” keep preventing “reformist” candidates from running for office.

    In a completely different vein, the taliban were propped up by financial support by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Osama bin Laden. These umbilici eliniated their need to maintain Afghanistan in a viable state, capable of supporting the taliban’s parasitism.

    In the end, government officials are parasites, sucking wealth from the regions they claim as their territory. If they are not able to feed off of external wealth, they are limited by what their victims can produce. Eventually, like all parasites, they realize they have to take one of three paths:
    1) To reduce their theft to one their host can sustain,
    2) To seek external hosts to to feed off of, or
    3) To kill their host, and die shortly after.

    When deprived of option 2, the parasites which survive are the ones who adopt option 1.

    Of course, if their mental models are wrong, or they don’t know any better, they can follow option 3, thinking that they are executing option 1.

  16. It would be okay if he stole elections, if he only embraced liberal values.

    I’ll take the bait. Its an interesting question of comparative politics. Strongmen in power can bring about very positive change in areas where democracy might have led to the opposite.

    Off the top of my head Chile was headed for the shitter under Allende, Chile now has the best economy in South America, a decently impartial judiciary and the first woman president, agnostic and former dissident. Its hard to say what Chile would look like today had Allende been left to be but it could well look like modern day Argentina or Peru which are a mess.

    Mathir did a decent job in Malasia and the various thugs that have run China the past 20 years seem to be doing something right. If the Chinese were allowed to hold a national election they may well elect real communists rather than self-interested thugs.

  17. I really don’t have anything to back that up, except that appears to me to be what is happening in Iraq

    I realize you’re there and all, but the Prime Minister’s comments about an “undeclared Civil War” don’t really support the thesis that things are becoming less divided along religious lines in Iraq.

    If you look at Iran, the “reformists” have far more popular support than the “hard liners”, which is why the “hard liners” keep preventing “reformist” candidates from running for office.

    Reformists aren’t prevented from running for office. One lost the Presidency last year. Their cosmopolitan appearance just makes them really, really lousy at engaging poor people, which doesn’t work very well in a country that’s a stratified as Iran is.

  18. Reformists aren’t prevented from running for office.

    The Guardian Council, which has final say over candidates to office disqualified about 2500 candidates from running for parliament, most of them reformers. This is what triggered the boycott of the most recent parliamentary elections which led to the current predominance of conservatives.

    One lost the Presidency last year.

    I doubt that anyone seriously considered Rafsanjani, who was handpicked by Khomeni to be president in 1989, a reformist. More like a slightly less wacko version of Ahmadinejad.

  19. Fortunately, Americans would never fall for a religious fundamentalist who campaigns on a platform of massive government spending and standing up to foreigners.

    And we’d never elect a guy who can’t really explain what he was doing in the 1970’s.

  20. I agree with Kwais on this one – it takes a borderline psychotic to risk everything to oppose a dictator. And the more over the edge you are, the more effective you’ll be at organizing people and accomplishing your objectives.

    As far as Iran, Kwais’s timeline WAS occurring, until we named them a part of the axis of evil. The younger generation was/is very westernized. But every time we challenge the country, a wave of patriotism/nationalism sweeps the country, allowing hardliners to tighten their grip. In fact, most Iranians want trade and liberalization, but they also believe it is their right to develop nuclear energy (which, under the NPT, it is). So each time we deliver bombast and obstruct #2, we lose some converts from #1.

    It’s that old law of unintended consequences that state actors can never seem to understand…

  21. Lukashenko is merely an active champion of the rights of men with extremely bad combovers. It takes a strong hand…

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