Vytis Jurkonis: Of the Orwellian calendar, the year is 1984 in Belarus today
The head of the Freedom House in Vilnius writes about Belarusan authorities flourishing in a passive environment without any dissent.
Throughout the years the regime has developed a system where an election is a parody, independent media is almost eliminated, and civil society is pushed underground. Orwell would not be surprised to hear that the main opposition candidate during the presidential election in 2015 was not planning to win. The early voting marked Lukashenka at 36 per cent, meanwhile he “received” over 83 per cent, with the overall turnout higher than 85 per cent. Might look odd, but this is in fact common for Belarus. In a country, where journalists are arrested for the photo of a teddy-bear or a one-armed man is on trial for clapping at silent protests, the abnormal becomes the norm.
Despite raised hopes, a full turn toward Europe seems unlikely.
Do recent events indicate that Belarus could fully turn towards Europe and pull away from Russia politically? In the last few months, a number of developments have excited observers in international media and revitalised old debates about the former Soviet country’s future. But despite positive indications, a broader view suggests that this prediction may be overly optimistic.
In the judgment of most media freedom or democracy indexes, the Eastern European country is labelled as one of the worst in Europe and in recent years Belarus has shown no tangible progress towards establishing a free media atmosphere.