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Belarusian Review

Belarus' Forum

30 Minutes after Four Years of Silence

... Anxious to show the EU that there has been some progress toward a better election process, the regime was forced to make some concessions concerning its monopoly over the broadcast media. For the first time since 1994, every candidate was given the opportunity to make two 30-minute, live TV addresses to the nation. For most, it was the first time they had been on television.

A second innovation of the 2010 campaign was a live TV debate on 4 December. Despite a situation in which Lukashenka refused to participate and the program was stacked with hosts who were well-known state apologists, the other candidates agreed to take part. Unexpectedly, the candidates managed to turn the tables by collectively ignoring the hostile and biased hosts, asking one another questions, and becoming the directors of what many called the best TV talk show in the last 16 years. Although Niakliaev walked out after his introductory remarks, it was a rare, if not the only, occasion during which all of the candidates demonstrated some unity.

 The television addresses and debates, also broadcast online, generated extensive attention and provoked lively public discussions. As one blogger wrote, the TV presentations sparked a “war” in his grandparents’ usually apolitical village household; they fought over whose favorite candidate was better. For the first time, no one picked Lukashenka. Yet, the euphoria over this breath of fresh air has started to fade. After the 4 December debate, the nine challengers disappeared from the air waves. An appeal by several candidates to the Central Electoral Committee for a proper debate including Lukashenka and additional air time for all candidates was denied. As one activist put it, those precious moments were their “30 minutes after four years of silence.” Since then Lukashenka has had the electronic media all to himself, and the others went back to being virtual candidates, literally.

Iryna Vidanava is an activist from Belarus who frequently writes on new media.

This article appeared in
Belarusian Review, Vol. 22, No. 4
---------------------------------------------
Copyright 2010 Belarusian Review
All rights reserved.
Source: Excerpt from the TOL Special Report by Iryna Vidanava, 16 December 2010


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