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Alena Zhebryk

Classifying the Belarusian regime. A local phenomenon

The political history of independent Belarus is fully associated with the rule of Alexander Lukashenko. Belarusian political regime is a phenomenon based on Soviet traditions, democratic institutions, and specific Belarusian elements. Political theories trying to identify the regime are numerous. Yet what term would allow the best description of the Belarusian system?

Clashing viewpoints

According to the official Belarusian political scientists, the current political regime is generally regarded as democratic. Yet the use of the term "democracy" to describe the present regime in Belarus is rather conventional and depends, especially recently, on ideology and politisation.

Independent Belarusian and foreign politicians have exactly the opposite point of view, which is quite natural. We can name B. Silitski, B. Chernov, A.Kazakevich, V. Rovdo etc. among independent Belarusian scientists, though even among themselves they tend to disagree on definitions.

Unfortunately, quite frequently the evaluation and characterization of the Belarusian regime is not based on a thorough analysis of problems, but a subjective and emotional attitude towards Lukashenko. Some authors define the Belarusian political regime as totalitarian, or a total dictatorship. But we should not forget that one of the most important and essential features of "totalitarianism" is mass terror directed not only against opponents of the regime, but also a peaceful population. Therefore, despite repression and extended state control over the society, Belarusian authorities allows the presence of open opposition. In a totalitarian country it would be just impossible.

Mapping the Belarusian political regime

The formation and functioning of the political regime in Belarus is so unique that any theory or political science concept of modes, ranging from democracy to totalitarianism, can be applied. In order to answer the question what is the nature of a political regime in Belarus, let’s try using the following parameters for the analysis: the nature of leadership, pluralism, the state of human rights.

Nature of leadership

Alexander Lukashenko has consolidated major executive, legislature and judiciary powers. Formally, according to the Constitution, the President is the only head of state, but in fact he had usurped the role of head of government. The President interferes in everything, even the non-major issues of the government, decides on all personnel matters. The Decrees of the President have greater legal force than the acts of the National Assembly.


Economic and social pluralism in our country still exists but there is no guarantee that the power structures do not interfere. Yet mass media in Belarus are strictly controlled by the government. Radio and television are completely monopolized by the state. The newly created independent company Belsat, which broadcasts from abroad, cannot yet compete with BT, ONT and other governmental TV channels. Many popular newspapers were closed for a sharp criticism of Lukashenko.

Political parties are deprived of normal opportunities for competition in the parliament and local authorities.

Human rights

Yes, Belarus is a true police state. The number of police officers and soldiers of internal troops is intimidating. Their main duty is not crime control but security of the President, dispersal of street demonstrations and opposition meetings, maintaining an atmosphere of fear in society.

During the leadership of Lukashenko, the main political rivals disappeared without a trace (the elections in 2001). After re-election for a second term Lukashenko intensified repression against the well-known business leaders.

Currently, the Belarusian authorities just jail most dangerous opponents of Lukashenko, run a large number of administrative cases but do not increase significantly the number of political prisoners. Thus, the theoretical model most suitable to define the Belarusian political would be authoritarianism.


Alena Zhebryk



The background image is a derivative of "Belarus" by Marc Veraart, used under CC BY.