Bring out the weapons of mass distraction!
Here's how, from permanent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's ever-open text book: schedule election day (Sunday) for the peak of winter, when people are getting ready for the holiday season.
'Tis the season to be jolly, and Lukashenka knows only too well what can happen when you hold an election during a less-distracted time of year, like early spring, instead.
Belarus' last presidential poll in March 2006 saw a tent city of protesters spring up on Minsk's central October Square almost as soon as the stolen election was over.
The tents, with their stakes wedged tightly between the cobblestones, hung on for a week before the police moved in for that media event authoritarians dislike the most. With billy clubs swinging, pictures of police brutality spread across the Internet, giving the Belarus opposition new credibility and dignity.
But not this time around, says Lukashenka.
In December, as every winter, central October Square is filled with a giant ice-skating rink. Where once there were cobblestones, now there is enough ice to daunt a team of huskies. Try driving your tent stakes into that, my husky-hearts.
Even better, the photo optics are now much more incumbent friendly. The opposition still plans to come out to October Square on Sunday, but it's at the risk of looking like killjoys. Angry protesters, assemble over here. You'll be sharing the square with rosy-cheeked and joyful skating children. Start chanting any time you want.
-- Charles Recknagel