Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Milinkevich May Withdraw his Presidential Bid

Alyaksandr Milinkevich, chairman of the Movement for Freedom, said Sunday during a regional conference of pro-democratic forces in Homyel that he had not yet decided whether to run in the forthcoming presidential election.

"Running for president is a very responsible step," the 63-year-old Milinkevich said in a subsequent interview with BelaPAN. "I must take it if my participation helps protect the independence of Belarus, democratize the country and unite people. Otherwise, running in the race would be simply a way of showing off."

Mr. Milinkevich questioned claims by presidential hopefuls that they were able to gather the required 100,000 ballot-access signatures separately. "The organizations behind them are not self-sufficient and nor is the Movement for Freedom," he said. "Only together can we gather the necessary signatures and run a strong campaign."

The problem with the selection of a single opposition candidate is that hopefuls are actually pursuing different goals, Mr. Milinkevich said.

"Some have selfish ends and others want to run for financial or organizational reasons," he said. "Goals are something we struggle with. If we all had one goal and were committed to the Belarusian cause and bringing about change, we would stand a chance. I think that the illness has lasted too long, but, perhaps, we'll go through this process and emerge healthy from the election."

The current situation is very different to the situation before the previous, 2006 presidential election, Mr. Milinkevich said. "The government's relations with Russia were not bad and the economy was stable," he said. "Now it's all different and Alyaksandr Lukashenka has never been weaker. We would stand a better chance if we were united. The opposition forces are in a systemic crisis, but this is not hopeless, any illness can be treated. And there are people who provoked this crisis. We're learning, but we ought to be learning faster. If we don't think about independence, we’ll lose our country, I said that as far back as 2007. And today Russia is on the offensive, attacking Lukashenka and, even more, our sovereignty and economy. A serious struggle is going on, but God forbid that we should become entangled in somebody else's strategies."

Mr. Milinkevich announced his presidential bid in early May. In the 2006 presidential election, he was the candidate of a broad opposition coalition and gained 6.1 percent of the vote, according to the central election commission. Alyaksandr Lukashenka was declared the winner with 83 percent.