Belarusian opposition: on the verge of marginalization?

By Tatjana Hurynovich | 3 August 2011

To quote this document: Tatjana Hurynovich, “Belarusian opposition: on the verge of marginalization?”, Nouvelle Europe [en ligne], Wednesday 3 August 2011,, displayed on 24 September 2022

Throughout Belarus nowadays, mass protests are organized through social media. The organizers of these protests might however never be successful. This once again confirms that the opposition in Belarus enjoys minimal support among the population.

Democracy and the opposition

The Belarusian opposition has a low level of support among the population. As Mr. Hans-Georg Wieck, former head of the OSCE mission in Belarus said: "If the Belarusian democratic forces are not funded from abroad, they will be marginalized and will disappear altogether." The idea of democracy in Belarus does not originate in the country ; it was imported and it is funded by outside sources. This, perhaps, is the main reason why support for the Belarusian democratic movements is so low.

Maybe the reason of the success of the authoritarian Belarusian regime must be sought not in the personality of the dictator, but in a society that is willing to live with him, as long as he guarantees stability, economic growth and welfare.

Some people have the opportunity to travel to Europe, to go to school there and to see how democracy works. For the majority of Belarusians, the objectives and policies of the opposition seem to be largely incomprehensible. Representatives of the "fifth column"-  as the official propaganda calls them - advocate media freedom, freedom for all public organizations and parties and fair elections. However, as noted by A. Rubinov, "all of them, in one degree or another, we have already." So for what kind of "democracy" is the opposition fighting? They probably would answer "for real democracy!” The main problem is that most Belarusians do not yet know what real democracy is.

Prospects for change

The opposition looks forward to the day when the Lukashenko regime is overthrown and is already figuring out what should be done first in the new "democratic Belarus". The fact that the Lukashenko regime will be replaced sooner or later cannot be doubted because no dictatorship is eternal. The main question is however: what kind of democracy will emerge?

One can find all the "democratic institutions" in Belarus today: the independent media, the separation of powers, free elections, public organizations and associations, political parties, etc. Democracy is nonetheless still missing. These institutions are not working properly. In this instance the question that needs to be asked is what should be done to change this situation.

Politicians of the opposition parties say that if they come to power, they would initiate institutional reform. But the current situation shows that institutions are not the only tools of a democratic regime. A «democratic mentality» is also needed. Otherwise we will have "democracy" without democrats and this is what we have now. Democracy is not just a set of institutions; it is a certain way of life. It is necessary to think first about what we have to do so that democracy becomes a permanent attribute of Belarusian society. That depends on education, culture, etc. Will the new government ensure the stability and the strength of the new institutions ? That is the main question.

PS: Mass protests are currently taking place in Belarus. Although the opposition is pleased that people now dare to organize rallies, this is however not a revolutionary movement against the regime. It is mainly a complaint against changes that affect the usual daily life of Belarusians. If the regime is overthrown and the country's new leadership only restores the political system without changing it radically, then, most likely, democracy will once again be "postponed" for an indefinite period of time.

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Source photo : Minsk opposition meeting after presidential election 6, by redline, on wikimedia commons