Belarus: an Authoritarian Exception from the Model of Post-Communist Democratic Transition?
Western commentators sometimes refer to Belarus as ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’.1 This emotively charged description is certainly an exaggeration. It nonetheless captures the unique situation in which Belarus has found itself the target of consistent criticism on the part of Europe’s main international organizations and the United States for failing to meet what most European nations recognize as international democratic standards. The administration of President Lukashenko, who has been in power for the last decade, finds itself in a state of confrontation with ‘the West’, primarily due to its non-espousal of these standards — at least as perceived by the country’s critics. The Belarusian administration has proved remarkably insensitive to external pressure, giving rise to policy dilemmas for external actors wishing to encourage political liberalization and promote democratic norms in Belarus. By all accounts, the West’s attempts to promote democratic norms in Belarus have failed. The considerable popular legitimacy of the Belarusian president, despite his authoritarian style of government, poses the questions of whether Belarusian society actually espouses democratic norms and, if not, to what extent it may be receptive to them.
KeywordsPresidential Election European Institution Winning Coalition International Criticism Parliamentary Election
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