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European Interview n°4

Alexandre Milinkievitch is the opposition candidate running in the Presidential election in Belarus on 19th March next.

Alexandre Milinkievitch is the opposition candidate running in the Presidential election in Belarus on 19th March next.

1/ How is the Belarus population feeling as the presidential election on March 19th approaches?

In Belarus most citizens want above all to be free. 70% of the population believes that this is the most important issue. Loukashenko's support is diminishing amongst public opinion. He does not have a real majority. In reality only 25-30% of the population approve of him.

The support we receive from the population is almost on the same level. This means that at present around 40% of Belarusians are still undecided. They no longer like Loukashenko but know nothing of the opposition and do not really understand what democracy is.

Just a few weeks ago only 4% of the population had ever heard of me. Now nearly 70% of them have and this has been achieved without the help of the radio or the television since political propaganda is prohibited. This is just the beginning. I think we have a real chance of winning.

2/ And do you think you might win the elections?

In effect there is no election in our country. A campaign is orchestrated by Loukashenko in order for him to be reappointed President of the Republic. But we intend to use this campaign and take the opportunity of going out to meet people, door to door and deliver information to the citizens – information they do not have – and provide them with a chance to discuss matters. It takes a long time to achieve democracy.

On 19th March we have an opportunity to win more votes than Loukashenko. We want to take advantage of this occasion to say "No" to his regime, even though he will probably repress the demonstrations that will take place in the street.

If he manages to stay in power no one should give up. At the end of the day he will be the loser since his authority is decreasing constantly.

3/ In the wake of events in Georgia and the Ukraine do you believe, in spite of everything, in the theory of the spread of democracy across to Belarus?

Yes, because it is the law of nature. When it will happen is difficult to say. Maybe on 19th March. We are doing everything we can for this to happen. Otherwise it will occur later. Whatever happens we shall succeed. Loukashenko will not change either in the economic or social sphere. The most important thing for our movement is to last out until democracy reaches us.

4/ We have seen you a lot in Brussels and elsewhere. You have met with a great many people. What do you expect of these meetings?

Since last year Russia has taken great interest in our movement. But I never dreamed of meeting the most important political leaders in Europe. What does this prove? It proves that Europe has understood that Loukashenko's regime is impossible to reform. Europe is working for democracy, its moral support is extremely important to us. In the past most people did not believe that we could change things. The meetings we are holding show that Europeans are expecting the advent of democracy in Belarus. In my country some think that it is not possible to transpose the European democratic model. And we are showing the contrary. Europe is waiting for us. It is possible to work together but for that to happen we must establish normal conditions.

5/ What help has really been put forward to you?

Concrete offers have been many in number and this is new. Until now support had mostly been moral in nature. From now on everyone says to us: "We support you. What can we do to help?"

The most important thing is access to information. Free information does not exist in Belarus. From this point of view the help offered by the European Union is very important. Then we hope we shall have help to prevent repression, to avoid young people being rejected from universities, to find the means to enable our young people to continue their studies in other countries, above all in the universities of our closest neighbours.

We also need help in supporting training programmes for young people abroad. In all these areas the present support of European civil society is extremely important. It will remain vital after the election on 19th March. Even if democracy wins through it will not be achieved in a day. Establishing democracy in Belarus will imply a great amount of work.

6/ How do you see your political future after 19th March?

I am sure we have an opportunity of winning. In that case we shall establish the programme we have announced. If we do not win then pessimism must not be allowed to set in, and it will not be the case with me. We shall have to continue working step by step. We have already produced results and I am convinced that democracy will win through in the end. It is the law of nature.
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
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The Guest
Alexandre Milinkievitch
Head of the democratic opposition force in Belarus and winner of the Sakharov Prize 2006 awarded by the European Parliament.
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