Alexander Lukashenka, who was known as the last dictator of Europe until the title drifted to Vladimir Putin, has won a fifth term as president of Belarus. After two decades of ruling his country, he now faces an existential choice.
Until recently his quasi-socialist economy had more or less satisfied the undemanding Belarusian people. Unlike Ukraine or Russia, Belarus has not gone through large-scale privatization. State-run enterprises produce 70 per cent of country’s GDP. Living costs are low, there is no big gap between the rich and the poor, and annual economic growth was about 6-9 per cent in the first decade of this century. Its prosperity was all due to lavish Russian support. Moscow has bought Lukashenka’s loyalty with cheap gas, oil and almost unlimited access to the Russian market.