In Belarus, “decentralized” demonstrations to thwart repression

How to continue to walk despite the repression? After almost four months of demonstrations against President Alexander Lukashenko, Belarusians find themselves forced to adapt to the authorities’ desire to erase any sign of dissension in the public sphere. In the capital, the major Sunday demonstrations have given way for three weeks to “decentralized” gatherings.

Steps in the neighborhoods

“Protesters turn to neighborhood links”, says Ioulia Shukan, lecturer in Slavic studies at the University of Paris-Nanterre. “The coordination takes place in the building yards. The marches remain in the same neighborhood, so protesters will know where to disperse, where to hide from the police. “

→ INVESTIGATION. Belarus: Lukashenko’s war of attrition against the opposition

The regime has beefed up its response since October, carrying out massive, often random arrests. Sunday, December 6, a hundred participants were arrested. In addition to administrative prosecutions, they run the risk of criminal prosecution, with heavier penalties.

Alexander Lukashenko succeeded in putting a lid on universities and factories by replacing some rectors, and by dismissing the workers’ leaders. In power for twenty-six years, the Belarusian president seems in no way decided to make concessions in the face of a movement he accuses of being manipulated by the West.

The economic threat

After a call for a general strike remained ineffective at the end of October, the opposition in exile embodied by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, an unsuccessful candidate in the presidential election in August, hopes to break the deadlock by another means of economic pressure.

On December 3, his team submitted to Belarusians an online vote to ask them if they would agree to “disconnect” Belarus from the Swift network, and therefore from the international financial system. A majority of voters approve this proposal which would weaken the economy and, they hope, the regime. Not certain, however, that the opposition will succeed in bringing this demand to the international stage.

The economy could, in the medium term, become the biggest threat for Alexander Lukashenko. “Belarus is isolated on foreign markets, the budget deficit is considerable, the state may not be able to ensure its social spending from next year., warns Belarusian security expert Andrei Porotnikov. We are on the threshold of an explosive economic situation. When people have nothing, they have nothing to lose. “

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