Updated at 14:52,24-02-2021

Lukashenka came to power only thanks to populist rhetoric, politician says


Alyaksandr Lukashenka won the 1994 presidential elections exclusively thanks to his populist rhetoric, Stanislaw Shushkevich, Belarus’ first formal head of state who ran in the vote, said in an interview with BelaPAN.

Six candidates ran in the elections. In the first round held on June 23, Mr. Lukashenka, then 39, won 44.8 percent of the vote, compared with 17.3 percent for second-place Prime Minister Vyachaslaw Kebich. Two more prominent candidates, nationalist politician Zyanon Paznyak and Dr. Shushkevich, gained 12.8 and 10 percent, respectively. In the July 10 runoff round, Mr. Lukashenka received 80.1 percent against Mr. Kebich's 19.9 percent.

"Of course, each candidate flattered himself and the situation in general, but the other five candidates considered it unacceptable to say what Lukashenka said," Dr. Shushkevich said. "No one could promise an easy way out of that economic crisis in such an impudent manner like Lukashenka did. Maybe, Lukashenka did not realize that he promised the impossible. But he did."

Dr. Shushkevich, who currently chairs the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada, said that he had not made similar pledges to avoid alienating "friends and associates." "Lukashenka did not have friends, he did not have such authoritative colleagues and associates. He could say anything," the politician said.

Dr. Shushkevich described the current situation in Belarus as the result of Mr. Lukashenka’s behavior in the 1994 elections. "An incredible external debt, a record high foreign trade deficit, the lack of freedom of speech, assembly, demonstration, the disappearance of people. Finally, Belarus has the shortest life expectancy in Europe and this fact cannot be corrected with any propaganda. These are the results of Lukashenka’s promises," he said.