Why Lukashenko might win – fair and square

In today’s Guardian, Jonathan Steele explains why Alexander Lukashenko, despite his notoriously repressive record, might well expect to win the coming election even if he doesn’t rig it (which he probably will):

Would you expect a European leader who has presided over a continual increase in real wages for several years, culminating in a 24% rise over the past 12 months, to be voted out of office? What if he has also cut VAT, brought down inflation, halved the number of people in poverty in the past seven years, and avoided social tensions by maintaining the fairest distribution of incomes of any country in the region?

Of course not, you would say. In Bill Clinton’s famous phrase, “it’s the economy, stupid”. Unless there are overriding issues of political or personal insecurity - incipient civil war, ethnic cleansing, mass arrests, pervasive crime on the streets - most people will vote according to their pocketbooks. And so it is likely to be in Belarus in nine days’ time.

An interesting article; I wouldn’t have thought he could really win, which is why he suppresses (without banning outright) the opposition parties and media, but in an anti-Lukashenko Times editorial today, it is noted that Lukashenko’s “crude redistributive policies … have bought its leader a measure of grudging loyalty among pensioners and the underemployed”.

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