Volha Karach: A woman can defeat alfa-dog Lukashenka
It is not easy to sit down for a talk with Nash Dom (Our Home) civic campaign chairperson Volha Karach. She is seldom in Belarus, all the time changing her mobile phone numbers. But amid growing rumors about Volha's plans to run for presidency during the 2015 campaign, Euroradio has decided to do so when spotting Ms Karach in Vilnius in-between her visits to Sweden and Estonia. She started right away by declaring her right as a woman to hold secrets. As a result, our conversation turned out to be filled with secrets throughout the whole interview.
Euroradio: Volha, will you run for Belarus presidency or not? People do talk a lot about it.
Volha Karach: I have only one answer to this question: every woman has a secret. Let this information be my little secret. Time will come, and we will see if Volha Karach is a candidate or not.
Euroradio: When will this time come?
Volha Karach: I think there is a lack of political intrigues in Belarus… You know, everybody knows six months before the election who will be the next president or who will be elected to the parliament in Belarus. Therefore, I believe it would be fun to have some intrigue in this regard. Let's just wait a bit.
Euroradio: How doable is it for you to become a presidential candidate in Belarus? Do you need to have your own team and enjoy support from other opposition leaders? Can a woman win the presidential election in Belarus?
Volha Karach: Any candidate needs a team regardless of who you are: a man or a woman. But I reckon that a female candidate will have good chances during the next elections... due to Aliaksandr Lukashenka. He has been very active and spent a lot of time to portray himself as the father of the nation, the alfa-dog, the mega-macho. He has thus created the niche for a female politician, let's say, the Belarusian mother. Lukashenka demonstrates musculine features in his ruling style: hardline, scandalousness, no mercy. But when we talk about the mother and the feminine ruling style, we talk mercy, problem awareness, non-conflict and, most importantly, the righ to error. Currently, nobody has the right to error in Belarus. This applies to both the political circles and business structures. Businessmen end up in prison over some technical errors which could be easily corrected. I think when a woman becomes the president, there will be a new era of mercy in Belarus.
Euroradio: This is your stance. Do male opposition leaders share your views? Are they ready to support you?
Volha Karach: There is a problem in the Belarusian opposition which I could describe in the following way: "Tomorrow will be late, but today is premature." People regard every election as their last chance. That's why they find it difficult to reach an agreement. But I think there will be a strong single opposition candidate in 2015. Let's put it this way, the candidate will represent the majority.
Euroradio: Apart from being a woman, how do you differ from opposition leaders?
Volha Karach: There is a huge difference in the concept. Obviously, gender does not matter when it comes to ideolody shaping. When we take a look at [chairperson of Central Election Commission] Ms Yarmoshyna, we will see that she does not demonstrate pro-democracy features or views. Being a woman or a man does not really matter here… You know, I have a dream. I wish and I work so that in a hundred years Belarus is a strong and respected country. I realize it may sound wierd. But take a look at Lukashenka. For him, the history of Belarus begins with him and has to finish with him. When we talk about the men in the oppositiion (and I don't want to criticize anyone), it often happens that a person joins the opposition and the whole history of the opposition movement begins with him. This person begins everything from scratch instead of evaluating the previous performances and mistakes. And it is not important to him what was before. But this is not true. Thi is important… Why am I talking about a 100-year program? We need to create a sustainable platform for the nation, for the Belarusian people, for the culture. Lukashenka has created a situation here and now, but under this situation there will be not a single Belarusian left fifty years after.
Euroradio: Will women vote for a female candidate?
Volha Karach: Woman in Belarus very often tries to preserve what has been achieved. Women do not like the shock therapy. Obviously, economic reforms are needed, but they always affect the most vulnerable social groups - pensioners, children and women - who always suffer the most. We are trying to develop a strategy that will defend the interests of those groups. It is much more difficult for a woman with two kids without a husband to find a job than for a man without children. I think life is much more difficult for women in today's Belarus. They have much more problems than men.
Euroradio: Volha, people talk a lot about you, but you don't live in Belarus, do you?
Volha Karach: I spend most of my time travelling. We have a very wide network in Belarus. Our organization is registered in the Czech Republic and Warsaw. We have a big technical office in Vilnius. Our newspaper is registered in Russia. It is a big operation which requires a lot of travelling. It would not be true to say that I don't live in Belarus. I can't even pick the cuntry where I spend most of my time or even 35% of my time. For example, I am heading to Tallinn, Estonia tomorrow.
Euroradio: Don't these endless journeys prevent you from following the situation in Belarus?
Volha Karach: There is yet another problem in our politics; everybody is waiting for one political terminator who can arrive and defeat everyone. Politics are a team game. A candidate must have a very good team. They keep saying: one needs to travel around the regions. I would say: not traveling but working there. The system can be defeated by only another system, another team. It is very important to sense the smell in the society. But a good team is the most important. It is physically impossible to be everywhere. I can't take part in all actions organized by Nash Dom that take place in Belarus and abroad. A politician should not be on his or her own.
Euroradio: The opposition is often accused of being far away from grassroots. Can you refute such allegations? Do you know the price tag for bread or milk in a grocery? How much is public transport fare in Minsk and Viciebsk?
Volha Karach: Our organization is very well aware about the needs of people. It was created as a network that deals with people's problems, e.g. the problems of parking spaces, high-pavement edges and other problems. It is very important to have people pointing their problems to authorities so that people are ready to battle to have their problems solved. The power should be for the people. Problems emerge like a snowball. One day they can be resolved radically. Our organization worklds to prevent a radical solution.
Euroradio: The last question: who of European and world political leaders is a role model for you both among men and women?
Volha Karach: I like Margareth Thatcher and Angela Merkel very much. I think they are very good examples of a strong woman who arrived in a difficult time when their countries had a lot of problems and created a sustanable basis for making those countries rich and successful… As for men… I guess the two women should be enough.
Photo: Alex Krum