Belarus in Crisis

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Belarusians are currently experiencing the most serious economic crisis since the early nineties. Despite the absence of independent radio and TV channels, ratings of authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko are as low as never before - but not much remains of the organised political opposition either, after many years of internal conflicts, successless campaigning and state repressions. The last presidential elections, on 19th of December 2010, did not match democratic standards. On election day, peaceful protests of 20.000-50.000 people in the center of Minsk were brutally clamped down by riot policemen. More than 600 people were jailed for several weeks, some of them, including alternative candidates, were sentenced to up 5-6 years in prison. With organised oppsosition silenced, and under impression of the economic crises, alternative forms of protest organised by car drivers or users of social network sites such as VKontakte gained some momentum in June and July 2011, but ebbed away once plaincloth security police started brutally arresting people who would take part, even if they were not carrying any signs or shouting slogans, but just walking around and clapping their hands. However, the crisis of Belarus mostly untransformed and non-competitive economy seems to be structural, and no signs of economic reformation can be observed. Instead, foreign currency is no longer available in the country, leading to a black market, break down of imports, inflation of consumer prices and a significant loss of living quality for most citizens. Analysts expect another wave of protests at the start of winter, when the already strained household budgets of Belarusians will need to cover rising utility costs. Will president Lukashenko's social contract - people give up their right to take part politics, and in turn are spared the risks of economic transformation - still hold up then? Will the current system once more be saved by foreign credits? To find out, keep tuned to the voice "Belarus in Crisis".

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