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As Lukashenka Clings To Power, His Trusty Machismo Is Losing Its Allure

Rogue Valley

Putin = War Criminal
DP Veteran
Apr 18, 2013
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As Lukashenka Clings To Power, His Trusty Machismo Is Losing Its Allure


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka took to the podium in Minsk early this month -- shortly after his government disqualified three strong rivals in the upcoming presidential election -- to assuage fears that his iron grip over the country was under threat. Facing a hall packed with maskless officials, he called Belarus an island of stability in an unstable world and defended his consistent dismissal of the coronavirus pandemic as a "psychosis" curable by vodka-fueled sessions in the sauna. He then turned to the opposition campaign against his reelection -- headed by the wives of two of his jailed rivals and the former campaign manager of the third -- and pronounced the women unwitting pawns of Western puppet masters intent on sowing instability in Belarus. "These three unfortunate little girls were found," he said of Maryya Kalesnikava, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and Veranika Tsapkala. "They don't understand what they say and what they do. But we can see who stands behind them." But it was already clear that Belarus's strongman leader since 1994 was facing the biggest political challenge of his life. And the irony was that, after years of macho showmanship aimed at shoring up his conservative support base, this challenge was being mounted by the very contingent of Belarusian society he had long belittled: women.

An election commission that analysts say is answerable to Lukashenka alone sanctioned Tsikhanouskaya's registration, apparently convinced that her lack of political experience and her gender would delegitimize her candidacy in the eyes of a public accustomed to the strongman's gruff political style. "The president will be a man," Lukashenka told workers during a visit to the Minsk Tractor Factory on May 29. "Our constitution was not written for women. And our society isn't ready to vote for a woman." "He barred all real competitors who posed a significant threat," said Tadeusz Giczan, an expert on Belarusian politics at King's College London. "But in an attempt to allow some genuine opposition to run, to legitimize this election, he decided to allow the weakest candidate, Tsikhanouskaya. That was his biggest mistake." It was a stunning ascent by a woman who had given up a career as an English teacher to become a stay-at-home mother for her two children and had never experienced the campaign spotlight before. Public-opinion polling has been banned in Belarus since 2016. But the vast crowds baying for Lukashenka's resignation across the country, analysts say, are a testament to how far his support has slipped -- a downward trajectory that even his trusty, old-fashioned hubris cannot reverse. "Lukashenka's support hit a record low this year," Shmatsina said. "It was low before the elections, but now it is irreversibly lost."

An open misogynist, Lukashenka never dreamed that he would lose to a woman. But Ms. Tsikhanouskaya is the legitimate president of Belarus.

Two questions are now of import; Will the OMAN (riot police) shoot protesters? If so, will such lethal force stop the nationwide protests or intensify them?

Related: Belarusians Gather For Anti-Lukashenka Rally As Army Issues Warning
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