Alyaksandr Lukashenka may crack down on protesters later this month in a bloody fashion just as he did in December 2010, Sergey Kalyakin says; but neither that prospect nor the numerous arrests this week is intimidating Belarusians. Indeed, it may be having exactly the opposite effect.
The leader of the Just World Party says that the prospects for such a crackdown given the passions that Lukashenka has stirred in the population mean that it is absolutely essential that the organizers of demonstrations planned for next week weed out any provocateurs whose violence the regime may use to justify the use of force.
Kalyakin points out that “the task of peaceful actions is not the seizure of state power but exerting pressure on the powers that be and demonstrating to people who are calling for change that they are very numerous. In our case,” he says, a few relatively small demonstrations were enough to force Lukashenka to back down on the vagrants tax.
Now, the demonstrations are growing in size but they are also becoming more diffuse with various slogans being advanced. That makes their impact harder to assess, but it is clear, Kalyakin says, that people are now protesting against not just the decree but against the kind of life they have been forced into.
[quote]Belarusians have been “driven into a dead end; they do not know how to live in the future,” he says. The opposition is trying to exploit this, but many going into the streets now are doing so spontaneously rather than as a result of any organizational work. And it is now clear that “today, the people are more decisive than the leaders of the opposition.”[/quote]
Another Belarusian opposition leader, Gennady Fedynich, the head of the Independent Radio-Electronics Industry Labor Union, says that “Belarusians are ready to defend their right for a worthy life” and are not intimidated but rather further enraged by what he calls Lukashenka’s clumsy response.
[quote]“One can say,” he says, “that the senseless actions of the authorities have ever more infuriated Belarusians” and that after the March 15 arrests, “even those people who were far from politics are ready to go to the square.” “Many Belarusians are convinced that the authorities must not be forgiven for what they have down with young people after March 15.”[/quote]
In that respect, Fedynich says, “the powers suffered a defeat” on that date, one that has been magnified by video clips now widely circulating showing just how the authorities flaunted their police powers. But in many parts of the country, people have only become angrier as a result.
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