Lukashenko’s Ceauşescu Moment?
Within the space of just a few days, Belarus's dictator-president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, has lost the support of just about everyone, not least his working-class base. With the last holdouts in his regime surely fearing for their future, Lukashenko is quickly running out of options.
MINSK – At some point, all dictators start to believe their own lies. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko is a case in point: he is now behaving as though he really did win 80% of the vote in an election that he himself ensured was rigged.
With peaceful protests sweeping Belarusian cities and towns, Lukashenko, on August 17, visited the Minsk Wheeled Tractor Plant (MZKT) and the Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ). Each factory plays a vital role not just in the country’s economy but also in its national identity, and both have long served as a foundation for Lukashenko’s power. Anyone who has seen the workers’ housing complex on Socialist Street in Minsk will understand the quid pro quo. For “a man of everyday life,” as the late Polish dissident Jacek Kuroń used to say, these residences are decidedly above average.
Nonetheless, when Lukashenko appealed to these workers this week, he did not hear “We will help,” but rather “Ukhodi!” – “Go away!” or “Get lost!” (Sharper barbs like “Shoot yourself” were also heard). The episode had poignant historical parallels that should concern Lukashenko. When Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu spoke before a huge crowd of protesters in December 1989, he, too, was heckled and mocked. He fell from power soon thereafter.