The president the West loves to hate and now the Russians as well. Even bare breasted Ukrainian feminists using Lukashenko's nickname chant :"Drive out Batska". Even without manipulation Lukashenko would probably win but Lukashenko has decided not to break with tradition and please all the western observers who will no doubt complain about meddling and irregularities. Nor will Russian documentaries that paint an unflatterring picture of Lukashenko hurt him. Probably he will sail through with even less to rock the boat internally.
Outside criticism of electoral practices often backfire whether it is Putin in Russia or western liberals. If anything it probably makes it more difficult for the internal opposition to operate effectively. This is not always the case however as the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine showed. But in Belarus this time around no one can paint Lukashenko as a Putin puppet!
In spite of the fact that he is elected he is often called in the west Europe's last dictator because the elections are not regarded as fair by International Observer's. Even so Lukashenko may not win outright in the first round. Support for his presidency in the round is only 40 per cent so there could very well be a runoff.
This gives little hope to the opposition however as all the other candidates together have less than 30 per cent of the vote! Add to that the fact they expect Lukashenko to manipulate the vote to some extent and there is almost no chance of an opposition win. Yaroslave Romanchuk one of nine challengers for the presidency said:"There will be too little control over the vote count, so don't expect this to be an election but a self-appointment,"
Lukashenko uses state controlled media such as television to campaign for the presidency. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has 40 long term monitors in Belarus who confirm the criticism about media control. 400 more will be sent to observe Sunday's vote. The group has been constantly critical of Lukashenko. They complain that opposition candidates are marginalised in the media. Maybe they should send observers to U.S. elections to consider media treatment of U.S. presidential elections when it comes to any candidates but those of the Republican or Democratic parties.
Luikashenko has had a firm grip on power in the country of about 10 million since 1994. When faced with criticism Lukashenko said:"There will definitely be political changes ... but no change of power in Belarus," In spite of his problems with Russia Lukashenko made an important deal with Russia to import oil tax free.Russia will probably continue to support Lukashenko because there simply is no obvious alternative. Besides they should know him by now!
Lukashenko has shown a new penchant to stress the identity of Belarus rather than ties to Russia. He has openly courted the European Union and boycotted Russian collective security organizations.
In response to a Ruslsian documentary which painted Lukashenko as a Mafia godfather, Lukashenko brought out the Georgian President Saakashvili who vowed support for Lukashenko! Medvedeve lashed out at Lukashenko:"President Lukashenko's statements are not just far removed from diplomatic rules but also from elementary human principles,"
All of this probably has the net effect of making Lukashenko even more popular at home. He is now painting the opposition as tools of Russia! Well now that is a change. Usually they are tools of western imperialism!