Sunday, April 02, 2006

Belarus: April's Fool

Did you hear the rumour yesterday? It was claimed that Lukashenka's wife Galina Rodionovna, had sought political asylum at an EU embassy in the capital of a neighbouring country to Belarus. Rumours resulted in intense diplomatic activity to find out more about this delicate issue. Someone suddenly realised it was April 1 - the traditional day for deceptive jokes.

The art of playing April's fool is to make up a story that is credible enough as to be believed but too fantastic to be true, and then fool people into taking it for serious. This time, the joke was really as good as it gets.

Lukashenka's wife, Galina Rodionovna, has for long been out of public view in Belarus. She still lives in the rural town of Shklov, where Lukashenka once led a collective farm. Officially, she is regularly commuting to her husband in Minsk, but among others the BBC claims that the couple is separated. The picture above is, actually, the only one to be found of her on the Internet (Google & Yandex).

That the couple's awkward relationship is subject to public ridicule is also testified by another recent event. On March 8, three oppositionists were arrested in Minsk for distributing leaflets asking people to present Lukashenka's wife with an International Women's Day gift by not voting for her husband during the presidential election to enable him to return home to her, the International League for Human Rights reports.

All this would, in itself, perhaps not have been enough to fool anyone, if it were not for the fact that Lukashenko has not been seen in public for a few weeks. Speculations that he is ill have flourished. Too much makeup at his public appearances when he was last seen and irregular and contradictory decisions during his absence are but a few indications of that something more than usual is rotten in the state of Belarus, according to some observers. It is even claimed that Lukasehenka's son Viktor has stepped in for his father lately.

Consequently, western diplomats, following events in Belarus, were probably not hard to fool when rumours started to spread that Galina Rodionovna had applied for political asylum. One cannot help wondering, until the scam was uncovered, how many reports were drafted proclaiming Lukashenka's imminent fall, when even his family could not put up with him anymore.

Speaking about dictators, with 82.6% of votes in the recent presidential elections a classic joke on dictatorship elections is now applicable to Lukashenka. Accordingly, Lukashenka's associates inform him on the victorious election results by asking:
- Mr. President, you got 82,6% of the votes. What more can you wish for?
- The names and addresses of those who didn't vote for me.
Regretfully for the people of Belarus, this is not so far from reality as one would wish. In Minsk, nobody has probably dared making Lukashenka an April's fool.

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