TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2006
A Dictator's Only Friend
In an election accurately described as a farce, Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko handily won re-election. Jailing the opposition, controlling the media and security services and busting up the opposition's rallies will do that for you.
The United States and the European Union will probably impose additional sanctions, but, at age 51, Lukashenko bids fair to keep running Belarus as his Soviet-style fiefdom as long as he can rig the ballot box.
Hopes for a galvanized electorate to oust an authoritarian government are faint, but there's hope. Ten thousand turned out to protest despite blizzard conditions and government threats to execute the demonstrators.
Lukashenko, often characterized as Europe's last dictator, may have stolen the election a little too well. Nobody believes he got over 83 percent of the vote and his opponent only 6 percent.
Well, not exactly nobody. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko's bankroller and sole ally, said the outcome "highlighted voters' trust in your course aimed at strengthening welfare of the Belarusian people."
Hmm. Lukashenko may not be for long Europe's last — or only — dictator.