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Belarus: Presidential Candidate Says Opposition Has Little Chance

Alyaksandr Voytovich (file photo) (RFE/RL) Alyaksandr Voytovich, the former head of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences and the leader of the upper chamber of the Belarusian parliament in 2003-04, is registered as an independent candidate in the country's presidential vote in March. Along with seven other contenders -- including the incumbent, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka -- needs to gather 100,000 signatures of support from eligible voters in order to be formally listed on the ballot. Voytovich recently spoke to RFE/RL Belarus Service correspondent Siarhey Navumchyk about the role of the opposition in the upcoming race, and other issues.

RFE/RL: Alyaksandr Voytovich, do you consider yourself as belonging to the Belarusian culture, or to some other culture, like Russian?

Alyaksandr Voytovich: I, of course, consider myself as belonging to the Belarusian culture. I was born in a Belarusian family, one which spoke Belarusian. I have grown up on this territory. I not only agree with, but am also deeply convinced, that only through national self-determination -- different from that of Poland, Russia, or Ukraine -- will we be able to become an important nation in the world.

RFE/RL: Do you think there is a systematic campaign to destroy the Belarusian language in the country, or is it happening more spontaneously?

Voytovich: I really think there is a campaign of destruction of the Belarusian language is underway in Belarus. I think it's being spearheaded by Lukashenka, who said long ago that it's a substandard language. I think the problem is that he was a bad student at school. I think that once Lukashenka's regime is a part of the past, the fate of the Belarusian language will improve radically.

RFE/RL: If you succeed in gathering the 100,000 signatures of support required to be on the ballot, do you plan to then withdraw your candidacy in favor of a united opposition candidate?

Voytovich: Signatures are now being collected and the process is intensifying. I'm considering the question of withdrawing my candidacy. This move would be not in order to support somebody else, but to show that Lukashenka's bid for a third term is not legitimate. I consider his participation illegitimate. I think, were I to make that move [to withdraw from the race], it would be a statement about the illegitimacy of his participation in the election.

RFE/RL: What is your most powerful weapon against the authorities?

Voytovich: The truth, which is being covered up by the authorities and by the official media, is my most powerful weapon. This truth should be brought to the people. I have to add that the authorities are stealing the future from our children and grandchildren. We must overcome this feeling of fear which rules so many in our country."

RFE/RL: Do you feel you have put yourself at risk by deciding to participate in the election campaign? Are you ready to face that risk?

Voytovich: To begin with, I should say that I am not afraid for myself. I am ready to risk my life. I'm concerned about it, but I'm ready. Secondly, as concerns possible bloodshed on the streets, we should do everything possible to prevent this. It would be terrible if we are divided by blood.

RFE/RL: In your opinion, what are the chances that power might change hands after the election?

Voytovich: Some people may not like it, but I always tell the truth. It's impossible to act otherwise when one is a scientist. That's why I say the possibility that there will be a change in power in three months' time is very low. As I have already said, there will in fact be no real election at all.

RFE/RL Interviews

RFE/RL Interviews

A special page devoted to RFE/RL's interviews with newsmakers and other leading figures from across our broadcast region.