What if an angry autocrat gave a defiant speech and no one applauded?by BBC Monitoring 6 July 2011
[Report by Yelena Chernenko: "Alyaksandr Lukashenka Made Everyone Keep Quiet. Both Opponents and Supporters"]
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has accused external forces of waging war on his country using "weapons of mass information destruction." He made this harsh statement at the Belarusian Independence Day celebrations. Participants in the "Revolution Via Social Networks" campaign were unable to carry out their plans – to disrupt the president's speech with applause. However, even his supporters were afraid to applaud the head of state. So Mr. Lukashenka's speech in the square passed off in the silence of the grave.
A parade was held in Minsk on the occasion of Independence Day, involving military hardware, athletes, amateur artistic performances, and two tractors. A big yellow hat was fitted to one of them (the "boy tractor"), while the other (the "girl tractor") had red inflatable lips, cartoon eyes, and a giant garland. On the Internet people joked that President Lukashenka will try anything to attract the attention of potential buyers to the merits of his tractor industry, but the Belarusian leader himself was clearly not in a joking mood on this day.
According to the Belarusian leader external forces are "intensively and deliberately" imposing on his country the "unscrupulous scenarios of 'color revolutions.' " "The aim of the attacks is to bring us to our knees and negate all the gains of independence," Alyaksandr Lukashenka explained, adding: "This will not happen! Every Belarusian can be confident that the national security system is always ready reliably to defend the constitutional principles, the sovereignty of the state, the clear sky over our country, and people's spiritual calm."
Meanwhile the atmosphere in the square where Mr. Lukashenka was speaking was strained. The authorities had had to resort to unprecedented security measures to prevent the participants in the "Revolution Via Social Networks" campaign from staging the culmination of their antigovernment flashmobs on this day. The oppositionists were planning to break through to the president's platform and disrupt his speech by applauding.
However, they did not succeed in carrying out their plan. "There were a great many police and agents in civilian clothes there. They were searching people and photographing them; only those with invitations were allowed to cross the cordon. People clapping were immediately removed," Kommersant was told by Vyachaslaw Dzianaw, organizer of the protest, who coordinates the actions of those who disagree with the Belarusian authorities' policy from Poland. According to opposition websites, during the president's speech yesterday about 50 people who applauded were detained.
The oppositionists acknowledged the failure of the protest, but they did manage to achieve something. Because of the fact that anyone who clapped immediately found the eyes of the law-enforcement agencies on him, even the president's supporters were afraid to applaud him. As a result, the silence of the grave prevailed in the square both before and after Alyaksandr Lukashenka's speech. "Even the most ardent Lukashenka supporters were afraid to clap, and as for mosquitoes, nowadays it is better to catch them [instead of slapping them]," oppositionists commented ironically on Twitter.
The dissenters were planning two more flashmobs: one at 1900 local time, the other at 2300. However, during the unauthorized "silent" protests (yesterday's was the fifth) the authorities have obviously learned to oppose them: with the help of traditional methods – the special police, mass arrests, and tear gas – and more modern methods – trolling on and limiting access to social networking sites, and disinformation. Yesterday they made lavish use of all of these.