Jonathan Steele writes:
The one thing most Europeans know about Belarus is that it has the most repressive political system and the most authoritarian ruler in Europe. The country’s parliamentary elections on 23 September, which most opposition parties are boycotting, will confirm that fact. It is also the only European country which still administers the death penalty. (If you widen the field to include the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, there are six other dictatorships: Azerbaijan and the five ‘stan’ states of Central Asia – all, like Belarus, former Soviet republics.) The ‘last dictatorship’ tag comes from Condoleezza Rice, who proclaimed it from the safety of nearby Lithuania in April 2005, and went on to recommend casting off ‘the yoke of tyranny’. In Ukraine the so-called Orange Revolution had recently sparked massive protests over election fraud that resulted in a second poll and regime change. Similar upheavals toppled leaders in Serbia in 2000 and Georgia in 2003. The hope was that Belarus might soon follow.