What election will bring: Maybe a new airbase, definitely the same president in Belarus
There has been some talk this year of Belarus—sometimes referred to outside of the country as “Europe’s last dictatorship”— changing direction. Some said it was driftingfrom Moscow and toward Brussels; others took its recent release of political prisoners as a sign of positive political change.
And there has indeed been a change. For the first time in history, the current presidential campaign—to be concluded with elections on October 11—does not feature a bright candidate who could become an alternative to Lukashenka, or a clear opposition strategy (for example, an organized boycott), or even a protest against the ballot-rigging. In fact, the 2015 election race has been called the most uninteresting in the last several years of Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s 21-year rule.
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.