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Milinkevich threatens peaceful street protest in case of ballot-rigging

Milinkevich threatens peaceful street protest in case of ballot-rigging

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If the government does not count ballots together with representatives of pro-democratic parties and organizations, they will call for a peaceful street protest, Aliaksandr Milinkevich, chairman of the Movement for Freedom, told reporters in Minsk on May 3 after announcing his presidential bid, as quoted by BelaPAN.

„We have a simple and clear strategy for victory in the presidential election,” Mr. Milinkevich said. „It is necessary to make the authorities count people’s votes together with us. If this doesn’t happen, we’ll conclude that the government doesn’t count votes and will call on people to stage a peaceful street protest. If there is no democracy at polling stations, there will be democracy on streets.”

No one so far has proposed a better strategy than „either democratization or the street,” Mr. Milinkevich said.

„Our president says that he has historical education,” he said. „Then let’s remember what happened in [Nicolae] Ceausescu’s Romania where the government rejected any dialogue with the opposition. Romania’s recovery from the revolution was long and troublesome. And let’s remember the Czech Republic and Poland, where the government eventually started a dialogue with the opposition and where no blood was spilled. And the government should reckon with us. Even according to official data, I and [another opposition candidate Alyaksandr] Kazulin received about 10 percent of the vote. By our count, we gained 30 percent, which constituted a large part of society.”

Mr. Milinkevich expressed hope that he would be supported by not only other member parties of the Belarusian Independence Bloc but also non-governmental organizations. He noted that half of his 5,000-member nomination group in the previous, 2006 presidential election were activists of NGOs.

„I don’t believe that we’ll be able to build a neutral country here after the example of Norway and Switzerland,” Mr. Milinkevich said, commenting on the Belarusian Christian Democracy party’s suggestion that Belarus should not try to become integrated into the European Union.

„We’ll have to make a geopolitical choice,” he said.

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