It is stronger than him. When he visits a farm, Alexander Lukashenko willingly exhibits his agricultural science. On May 15, when he had barely disembarked from his helicopter placed in the field of a Vitebsk farm, in the north of Belarus, he lectured the delegation who had come to welcome him. “Organize yourself well to pick up this season both grain and hay,” he says to officials surprised to hear him state the basis of the trade. The small group then goes to a stable. “We separate cows over 6 months of age from the others,” says one of the managers. “Well done for this method! Compliments Lukashenko this time. “The earth produces food for animals. And the meat of animals makes it possible to bring in the money, ”continues flatly the man who was once the director of a sovkhoze, a Soviet state farm.
The Belarusian president is like that. He has an opinion on everything. Not always relevant. Example? For several weeks, his “expertise” on the Covid-19 has fueled television programs. To eradicate it, he advocates a recipe: vodka, sauna and toil. “It is better to die standing than to live on your knees,” he boasts. He also castigates the most fragile of his fellow citizens. “How can you live by weighing 135 pounds? Your heart is failing! You have a sick body and the virus is attacking you. As for confinement, he excludes it. “The economy has to turn and people have to eat. “
Nobody dares to contradict him. For more than a quarter of a century, Lukashenko, 65, has reigned supreme over this former Soviet republic of 9.5 million inhabitants. A country wedged between Poland and Russia and described by Washington as “the last dictatorship in Europe”. Since the withdrawal of his Kazakh counterpart, Lukashenko is even the oldest autocrat in the post-Soviet space in office. And the man with the mustache does not intend to stop there. In August, he ran for a sixth term, he who swears “not wanting to die in his chair.”
A new electoral farce which could, however, create a stir. Because, rather rare fact, Minsk becomes the scene of rallies hostile to the regime. “Stop the cockroach!” Chanted a crowd of several hundred people last weekend, wearing, brandished by the demonstrators, slippers supposed to crush the insect.
Nikolai, the heir?
Lukashenko, it is true, concentrates all the criticisms. Not only because of its longevity and its grip. Her private life is also singled out. This is the case when he incorporates his son Nikolaï, 16, from an extramarital affair, in all of his official trips, like an heir. Or when he parachutes his deputy, his 23-year-old girlfriend, a former beauty queen, to third place in the Miss World contest.
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So Lukashenko is wary. The day after the protests, he summons the head of the KGB, the country’s intelligence service (whose name remains unchanged since the fall of the USSR). “I warn everyone who listens to us that there will be no Maidan revolution here,” insisted the president, referring to the Ukrainian revolution. And to accuse a “criminal gang” of wanting to precipitate chaos. Opposite, the braid, head down, does not say a word.
Tense economic situation
Lukashenko even takes the lead. In recent days, he has sent two opposition figures to prison: Sergei Tikhanovski, a blogger who has become very popular thanks to his YouTube channel called Country for Life, a site on which the locals report their disappointments with the authorities; And Mikola Statkevich, already imprisoned for six years for trying to run in 2010 against Lukashenko.
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Danger averted? Not quite. Two other candidates could shake up the strong man’s plans. Two personalities a priori intended to set the tone during the election: Valery Tsepkalo, the creator of the local Silicon Valley, and Viktor Babariko, a former banker. Except that the two do not necessarily want to do figuration. “They have liberal convictions, money and a lot of bridging,” writes in his latest report Artyom Shraibman, an analyst at the Carnegie Institute. The Belarusian authorities are taking a risk because they can quickly get into the polls. “
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Another threat remains: the economic situation weighed down by the interruption of exports of the country’s two main sources of income: fertilizers and refined oil. Not to mention the strained relations with Russia, furious to see Lukashenko rejecting his integration proposals and who no longer hesitates to cut off his hydrocarbon supplies.
So many challenges on which the former apparatchik will surely issue an opinion …