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In Belarus, Lukashenko's Last Stand

Monday, June 13, 2011

Things are not looking good for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The man who built arguably the most stable, authoritarian and centralized administration in the former Soviet Union is now struggling to maintain control. A forced currency devaluation last month wiped out the savings of ordinary citizens, who subsequently took to the streets, plunging Minsk into chaos. Throughout May, Belarus teetered on the brink of economic collapse, and Lukashenko was rumored to be plotting to flee the country. An emergency $3 billion loan package from Russia, technically administered through the Eurasian Economic Community, has stabilized the situation for now, but the once-unshakeable Lukashenko government looks increasingly vulnerable.

Since his election in 1994, Lukashenko has governed Belarus by sticking to a relatively simple strategy: resurrecting and then maintaining a Soviet-style command economy and insulating Belarus from the economic chaos that engulfed the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. By providing full employment and meager but steady growth, Lukashenko satisfied the limited aspirations of his people and secured his rule. ...

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