This time, authorities used milder methods to thwart the demonstrations than the violence seen last year. Thus, some 50 opposition activists throughout Belarus had been arrested prior to the rally, in order to complicate its organisation. The march was also led away from the city centre, and police repeatedly urged people to dissolve the "illegal demonstration." Furthermore, the Lukashenka regime had staged a number of concerts to draw attention away from the opposition rally.
Demonstrations must be seen as a test of oppositional strength and resilience. The opposition has for long been torn by internal struggles and conflicts, which has been skilfully exploited by the Lukashenka regime. With increasingly strained relations to Moscow, Lukashenka has recently signalled rapprochement and dialogue with the West, and here the predominantly western-oriented opposition is once again seen as an obstacle to the president's plans.
Speaking at the rally, former presidential candidate, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, called for political freedom and for the long-term inclusion of Belarus into the European Union. Referring to the international isolation of the Lukashenka regime, Milinkevich said: "We should understand that we are not alone. The democratic world and Europe stand together with us."
As a token of oppositional unity, the demonstration must be seen as a great success. Still, the opposition coalition remains fundamentally divided, and Alyaksandr Kozulin, who came second in last year's presidential elections, is currently serving a 5 1/2 year prision sentence for his political activities. So, as Milinkevich called out to the masses that "We are the majority! We will win!" it is questionable if this is enough to overthrow the Lukashenka regime. As long as the opposition remains divided, majority is not the issue - unity is.