Return of the opposition (l999-2004)

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Return of the opposition (l999-2004)

The situation changed in early 1999, when Viktar Hanchar, the former teammate of Lukashenko who was fired from the position of head of the Central Election Committee, took the lead of opposition. Being an outstanding and goal-seeking leader, he started a campaign to hold alternative presidential elections.

The legitimate mandate of Alexander Lukashenko expired in July 1999, and the opposition did not approve expanding this mandate for two more years. The campaign of Viktar Hanchar escalated political confrontation and provoked the authorities to use force again.

In May, popular opposition member Juri Zacharanka disappeared; in September, Viktar Hanchar was gone, too. Their fate is still unknown. In the same year,Hienadz Karpenka, another well-known opposition leader, died in unclear circumstances. So during one year, the opposition lost three extremely credible and charismatic leaders. There were no suitable people to replace them at that time. Leader positions were attacked by people who had no potential required.

The first direct elections to House of Representatives were planned in autumn of 2000, and the opposition decided to boycott them. But this boycotting resulted not in discrediting the ruling authorities, but in discrediting the leaders of the opposition. Independent mass media reported about mass corruption among opposition members. It emerged that major portion of aid from the West had been squandered.

When the presidential elections started in 2001, the opposition was weakened. Along with image losses they could not come to a consensus in identifying a candidate that could stand up to Alexander Lukashenko. Only shortly before the elections, Uladzimir Hancaryk was elected as the single candidate. He was the head of official labour unions and a former communist functionary with no charisma and no influence in society.

The official data say that Alexander Lukahsenko won 76% of the votes; the opposition said that the results were falsified, but still Lukashenko received more than 55% of the votes. There were some attempts to organize protest campaigns in the night after voting ended, but they failed.

The second cadence of Alexander Lukahsenko coincided with the peak stage of his socioeconomic model. This was a time of steady growth of the population’s income; this is why they were rather indifferent to politics. The opposition was engaged in internal conflicts and showed its activity only pro forma.

In October, 2004, further elections to the House of Representatives were held, which the two opposition coalitions took part in. But no representatives of opposition received deputy mandate. Along with the elections, the referendum that removed limitation of two presidential terms was held. This allowed Lukashenko to continue in power as long as he wished. The opposition accused the authorities of massive falsifications.

Author: Handbook on Belarus for International journalists

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