Opposition Speaks Up

To his opponents, he's "the last dictator in europe"...

To his supporters, he's simply called "father."

Belarussian president Aleksander Lukashenko is up for re-election, in what critics are calling a fight for the future of this former soviet republic.

"You will be sure from the results that the Belarussian people are in charge of our country," Lukashenko says.

The former collective farm director has run Belarus with an iron hand since 1994. He's had opponents killed or thrown into jail, gutted freedom of the press, and destroyed democratic institutions.

But Lukashenko has brought economic stability and kept prices low--and that's why many Belarussians still support him.

The opposition has united behind former physics professor Aleksander Milinkevich--who says he can't win because the vote has been massively falsified. He's called for a new, honest election.

"I won't be surprised if someone allows himself to claim 120 percent of the vote," Milinkevich says, referring to the president.

After the polls closed, the opposition started a demonstration in the Belarussian capital, Minsk.
It hopes that thousands of people who oppose Lukashenko will join in the next few days--but the authorities are doing everything they can to keep protestors away.

The Belarussian KGB has warned that anyone who shows up will be arrested...and anonymous text messages have warned people to stay home or risk bodily harm.

Opposition activists like this leader of a Belarussian student group say that there is a chance that people may turn against Lukashenko.

"Today, there are more and more people that do not want to tolerate this regime any longer, and are ready to go into risk for it," explains Ales Chaychits, a Belarussian opposition activist.

Though the president will be claiming victory, the final outcome is still unclear... Because no one really knows if the opposition in Belarus has the support and the strength to bring about what it so desperately wants...a democratic revolution.
by Beth Knobel