Belarus elections - The Opposition

Ten candidates including 56-year-old President Alexander Lukashenko are officially competing in the presidential elections on December 19. In 2006 elections the opposition was a headache for Belarus' authoritarian government when it rallied around a single candidate. Almost five years later, the opposition is divided but the increased number of candidates on the ballot paper also in part reflects fractionally easier conditions for campaigning with a slight easing of restrictions on collecting signatures to run and fleeting mass media exposure granted to all.

Andrei Sannikov, 56, was a successful Soviet diplomat and served as Belarus' deputy foreign minister between 1994-6 until he went into opposition when a referendum transformed Belarus from a parliamentary to a presidential republic. One of the founders of the opposition Charter 97 website, he is long-time prominent oppositionist and favors integration with the European Union as leader of the European Belarus movement.

Vladimir Nekliaev, 64, member of the Govori Pravdu civil movement. Until roughly a year ago famous only as a popular poet behind a number of Soviet hits, Nekliaev has risen up as the strongest candidate according to opposition polls, although still way adrift of Lukashenko. He has lived abroad in Finland and Poland after crossing the Belarusian authorities in the last ten years. Rumors circulate that he is financed by Russia, although funding could come from the Belarusian diaspora, analysts say.

Yaroslav Romanchuk, 44, is a respected economist and president of the Mises Center think tank. Deputy chairman of the United Civil Party of Belarus, he is well-connected among economists and has a developed plan for reforming Belarus' post-Soviet managed economy into a market economy, although critics doubt his familiarity with Belarusian power structures.

Grigory Kostuchev, 53, is from the Belarusian People's Front, said to be Belarus' oldest national democratic party. He wants Belarus to join NATO and advocates 'Belarusianization' by scrapping making Belarusian the only state language. He also seeks the renationalization of Belarus' gas pipeline network which is half owned by Russia's Gazprom.

Nikolai Statkevich, 54. As an ex-army colonel, he draws support from veterans. His centerpiece policy is for Belarus to have legitimate elections and he aims to prove the December 19 elections are being falsified. He has twice been imprisoned for political protesting and has a reputation for whipping up big street protests.

Dmitry Uss, is a businessman and said to be financed by his friend Statkevich. He ran for Parliament as an independent deputy over five years ago but had to give up when he was beaten up and hospitalized.

Vitaly Rymashevsky, 35, is the candidate from the Belarusian Christian Democrat Party, which has had difficulties officially registering as a party as it could tap into support from Belarusian Christians.

Ales Mikhalevich, 35, was ex deputy head of the Belarusian National Front until he was expelled from it in 2008 after disagreeing with the leadership. He emphasizes civil society in his platform for president.

Viktor Tereshenko, worked in the Lukashenko team in the 1990s before setting up his own business. He favors integration with Russia.


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