Eighteen years have already passed since the vast majority of Belarusians backed Alexander Lukashenko in his run for a president’s position.
80 percent of votes in the runoff ensured Lukashenko’s victory in the first – and, as it later turned out, the last – democratic election of president in Belarus. Being in opposition to both the ruling post-communist nomenklatura and pro-democratic parties, the candidate won people over with populist slogans, promising the return of prosperity of the Soviet era and end of political as well as economic chaos that the country had been struggling with.
Yet on 20 July 1984, probably even Lukashenko did not predict how long his presidential service would last, despite his already visible great ambitions. Nasha Niva, summing up these eighteen years, rightly points out that a whole new generation grew up in an authoritarian system. The youth of today do not remember the end of the 80s when the dramatic discovery of victims from the Stalinism era buried in Kurapaty aroused national demands of Belarusians. Today’s twenty years olds do not remember workers’ strikes held during the first half of the 90s. The entire political context of the new generation is focused on one person who has dominated people’s imagination so well that he has been named Bat’ka – the Father.
At present, Lukashenko holds the 34th position in the ranking of leaders serving the longest. Does reaching a presidential majority fulfil his ambitions? During his recent stay in Venezuela, the Belarusian leader brought his son, eight-year-old Nikolai, to a meeting with his counterpart Hugo Chavez. Pointing to the inconspicuous boy, he made a joke that, if necessary, he had a successor. However, being only 58 and enjoying good health, Lukashenko can postpone such musings till Nikolai reaches his own majority.