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Youth Driving Democratic Change in Belarus

(Washington, DC--June 2, 2005) The youth movement in Belarus is in the forefront of the fight against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's dictatorial regime, according to two Belarusian youth representatives. Siarhei Salash, chairman of the NGO "Skryzhavanne" and Olga Stuzhinskaya, coordinator of the civic initiative "We Remember" told a recent RFE/RL audience in Washington that Belarusian youth are actively engaged in changing Belarusian society, to establish a new democratic government.

Salash said Belarusian youth value democracy and will play a major role in determining the results of the upcoming 2006 Presidential election. Salash predicted that youth will actively participate in creating democratic change, just as those in Georgia and Ukraine did during the revolutions in those countries. While the youth movements may be intense and impatient for change, Salash said that they should work under a legal framework and in accordance with current laws.

The opposition in Belarus, according to Salash, must select a single presidential candidate soon, in order to determine whether he or she is acceptable to the wide spectrum of groups. Moreover, he predicted that Belarus will not have a revolution similar to Ukraine or Georgia. Salash believes that hundreds of thousands of demonstrators must take to the streets for any chance of a popular democratic revolution to take place in Belarus.

Stuzhinskaya predicted that a potential revolution in Belarus could be more violent than those in Georgia and Ukraine, because the current regime has demonstrated that it is willing to use violence. She also believes that women will play a critical role in any potential revolution in Belarus. Stuzhinskaya said that a female presidential candidate could be popular among elderly voters who have become disillusioned with the current regime. Ultimately, according to Stuzhinskaya, "the Belarusian people are ready for change and action."

One of the challenges faced by those interested in organizing a successful democratic revolution in Belarus, according to Salash, is that the Lukashenka government controls most of the national media, including the Internet. Salash noted that Belarus has few independent newspapers, hardly any independent radio broadcasts and no independent television. Therefore, according to Salash, the only way to mobilize the electorate is through a door-to-door leafleting campaign and other grassroots activities designed to promote the democratic opposition's candidate.