Milinkevich ready to be opposition forces’ common presidential candidate
Alyaksandr Milinkevich, leader of the Movement for Freedom, said at the organization’s conference held in Minsk on Saturday that he was ready to be pro-democracy forces’ common candidate to compete against Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the next, 2015 presidential election.
"I’ve never felt as young as I do now, although I am 65," Mr. Milinkevich said. "I don’t mind claiming the role of the common candidate and I would perform no worse than [in the presidential race] in 2006. But I promise that if another person is chosen to be the common candidate, I’ll work for him."
According to Mr. Milinkevich, a major shortcoming of opposition forces is that they concentrate their attention only on Mr. Lukashenka. "We have already developed a complex about him," he said. "The problem is not about Lukashenka but about people’s minds. If we remove Lukashenka from people’s minds, he won’t be in power."
"If we conquer people’s minds, we’ll become the strongest organization," Mr. Milinkevich said.
Participants at the conference, held at the head office of the Belarusian Popular Front, adopted a resolution calling on pro-democracy forces to choose their common presidential candidate by November 2013.
In addition, the Movement proposed developing a common platform for the common presidential candidate, which, according to the organization, could be based on the People’s Program and recommendations generated by experts within the framework of the European Dialogue on Modernization.
Mr. Milinkevich was born in Hrodna on July 25, 1947 into the family of teachers. His great-great grandfather and great grandfather participated in the 1863-64 anti-Russian uprising led by Kastus Kalinowski and were punished by the tsarist authorities by depriving them of their estate. His grandfather was an activist of Belarusian nationalist organizations in the Hrodna region in the 1920s. His father, Vladimir Baran, held the title of Honored Teacher of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR).
Mr. Milinkevich holds a doctoral candidate’s degree in physics and mathematics. His thesis for the degree, defended in 1976, dealt with the "mechanism of the generation of ultrapowerful laser pulses."
From 1980 through 1984, he headed the Physics Department at the University of Setif, Algeria. He worked as assistant professor at Hrodna State University between 1978 and 1980 and between 1984 and 1990.
From 1990 through 1996, he was deputy head of the Hrodna City Executive Committee in charge of culture, education, healthcare, religion, sports, youth and international affairs.
In the following two years, he was representative of the Belarus Soros Foundation in Hrodna. He founded a non-governmental organization called Ratusha and headed it since 1996 until its closure by a court decision in 2003. The official grounds for the closure were that the NGO had used a Risograph digital printing machine without a publishing license. As a resource center, Ratusha provided assistance to more than a hundred NGOs, including those not recognized officially, in Hrodna and the Hrodna region. The organization was the UN Development Program's main agent in Belarus under its Internet international project, providing free web access for NGOs.
In 1996 and 1997, Mr. Milinkevich was president of the basketball club Hrodna’93, the national title winner in 1998-2001, 2003 and 2004.
He was the campaign manager for opposition presidential candidate Syamyon Domash in 2001.
According to the central election commission, he came second in the 2006 presidential election with 6.1 percent of the vote.
Mr. Milinkevich did not run in the next, 2010 presidential election and was denied registration as a candidate in the recent House of Representatives elections.