The president elections will take place on December 19. On the eve of the active phase of the elections young members of BPF and UCP had an opportunity to get experience in agitation work. With the support of the foundation Jarl Hjalmarson they got training in the headquarters of the Swedish party Moderaterna.
Nadzeya (UCP party) and I (Uladzimir, BPF) got a training in the famous Swedish place – the island Gotland (more information about the island is here).
During our journey I kept a diary which I present to your attention. There is a description of the agitation campaign, island inhabitants’ customs, education institutions, landscapes and so on in the diary. High politics (meetings with the Swedish ministers of culture and trade, the leader of the youth branch of Moderaterna party) are also mentioned there. The diary tells even about love at first sight between … but let’s start from the beginning.
Arrival. Tuesday (07.09.2010), Stockholm.
20.00 – the arrival. I didn’t feel well after the flight. Registration in the hotel.
21.15 – dinner with the writer (Marika Ehrenkrona), who is writing a book about Belarus. We told her about life in Belarus, activities of youth NGOs. We had to spend much time explaining why in 2006 all the oppositionists became “hooligans” and “vulgar, rude” people. Marika couldn’t understand how militia officials could be false witnesses in the court. “Why did they do it?” – We had no answer to this question. In Europe they are used to respect the police which have clear conscience and so on.
22.45 – walking along Stockholm. Nadzya was not impressed by the city. “As in our district”, – she said, keeping in mind Malinauka in Minsk. I tried to persuade her: “We are in the city suburbs and the centre of Stockholm is cool”.
Starting conference. Wednesday. (08.09.2010), Stockholm –Visbju.
09.00 – the beginning of the conference for volunteers who will work for Moderaterna. There are participants from Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Finland, Albania, Ghana and the most exotic one – the Seychelles.
10.45 – Excursion to the Swedish parliament. We were walking on tiptoe in some parliament corridors – there were parliament members working in the offices and we didn’t want to disturb them. I got interested if it is possible to get on such an excursion in the Belarusian parliament? I’ll get to know about it later.
The Swedish parliament.
The view from the Parliament window.
11.15 – Nadzya met a Serb, Djoko by name. It was real love at first sight and I was not the only one to watch with grief their parting 5 hours afterwards. Nadzya was to go to the island Gotland but Djoko (as it is sung in a war song) – went “to quite a different place”. Nevertheless are there any obstacles for love in our information age? There can be sms, e-mail and so on.
13.30 – we continued our acquaintance with the election system in Sweden. It’s interesting to mention that elections which are held on all the levels at the same time take place once in four years. You can’t be a candidate unless you are a member of a political party. “A good person” without any definite political convictions can’t be voted for.
The ceiling of our conference hall.
15.45 – during the break I talked to the representatives of Serbian parties DSS, G17+, Norwegian Hoyre. They know about Belarus. Unfortunately as the most foreigners they don’t know anything but Lukashenko. “Ah, Belarus! The country ruled by Mr. Lukashenko?” “No,- I reply,- the one with beautiful lakes, forests and girls!” They liked the joke.
At the conference I liked the report of the Swedish Minister of Trade (Ewa Bjоrling) under the title “Trade for Democracy and Freedom”. It was very interesting including polemic on penalties for authoritarian countries. The English version is here.
18.20 – we left for the airport.
20.25 – arrival at the island Gotland and particularly its “capital” Visbju. Taking into consideration that the population of the island is 50 000 people and half of them live in Visbju the agitation task can’t be difficult here.
Nadzya, Anders and I.
20.30 – we were met by representatives of the local branch of the party Moderaterna. They are managers of the company Anders and Lars-Eric – Ambudsman (the Swedish word meaning “Authorized person on defending human rights”). I should say that we made friends with these nice people and still keep in touch with them.
21.20 – registration in the hostel. I attached photos of the room for those who are sure that oppositionists live in five-star hotels.
Taking into consideration a cold room and Nadzya’s fear of new places we decided to stay together for some time.
The first working day. Thursday (09.09.2010), Visbju.
9.10 – Anders and we went to the office of Moderaterna. We had a little excursion on our way. It’s worth seeing and thousands tourists come here every year. We discussed the Swedish ecological education: there were 4 separate trash cans for paper, plastic, metal and glass in the buildings. When the trash is sorted you can have 50% discount for waste disposal. By the way you can hand over empty plastic bottles (a 1,5 liter bottle – 2 krones) and tin cans (0,5 krones) in Sweden.
There is a real paradise for bicyclists: special paths, underground crossings, parking lines… It’s not surprising that in such conditions and with 2 $ for a liter of petrol there are many people wishing to ride a bicycle. By the way “Dzedzich” has recently started a campaign for “the Bicycle Paradise” in Brest. See details here and here.
The bicycle parking line. Visbju.
11.05 – The agitation stall in the centre of Visbju.
The agitation stall.
Neighbours in agitation.
The stall of Social-Democratic party.
Don’t go to the left! – a kind slogan on the placard of Moderaterna party opposite the agitation stall of Social-Democratic party.
It’s not just a recipe book, it’s an agitation material!
Basically half of the agitation materials were not classical leaflets but various small useful things with Moderaterna symbols: balloons, pens, charms, packs of barbecue spices, appliances for closing plastic bags, for cleaning displays of mobile telephones, condoms and so on. By the way we tried to imagine condoms with symbols of UCP or BPF. Unsuccessfully.
15.10 – dinner in the café under the provocative name “Russian Cuisine”. In Sweden they put much spices and salt in the dishes – perhaps because it’s a northern country. In spite of the cafe name we didn’t notice much of Russian in the soup for 100 krones – there were pineapples besides potatoes in the soup. Plus a lot of salt and pepper there.
17.40 – we had a meeting with a national leader of the youth branch of the party Moderaterna. His name is Niklas Wykman. He is an energetic and charismatic young man. 15 members of the organization were present at the meeting. We were surprised to know that members of this organization, boys and girls at the age of 15-17 years old do nothing else but politics. During the elections they take part in the party’s agitation campaign and the rest of the time they spend on political debates in the mass media, sociological investigations. Niklas knows the political situation in Belarus very well. He and his friends want to come to our country for the President elections if they don’t have any problems with visas.
– We were able to win only when we joined our forces. I wish all the political forces in Belarus to get united, only in this case you can win. I think that Belarus will become a member of the European Union in future, – this is Niklas’ message in short.
Thanks! We really need to unite our forces.
19.00 – walking along the coast of Visbju.
The second working day. Friday (10.09.2010), Visbju.
10.15 – we agitated in the grammar school. Representatives of other parties were also here. (You can read about Swedish political parties here). We got to know if it was profitable to be a member of the City Council in Sweden. (In Belarus this post is not paid). In Swedish Visbju a member of the Council gets 1000 krones and the Chairman – 5000 krones.
Nadzya talked to students. It turned out that since their school years they were brought up as active and discerning voters. At school they get tasks to know points of view of different parties on some urgent problem. For example, on the global level – building a new atomic power station or on the local level – building a parking line or a bus stop. Thus from their youth they learn to understand politics and choose the political party for themselves. We understood why teenagers were so active during the agitation the day before.
Students are interested in politics.
Students are interested in politics.
12.30 – I got acquainted with representatives of the Piracy party. Details are here.
I asked a provocative question about their policy in relation to our country. Their answer was quick and unambiguous: pirates are for democracy and that’s why they are against Lukashenko’s regime. So, dear friends, we are provided with the Piracy fleet on the Svityaz’ during the Elections.
The piracy table.
The placard of the Greens.
13.20 – we had time to look about the grammar school. It’s very interesting for me as a teacher! I couldn’t get into the hall for a long time – there was a button to switch to open the doors. It’s so difficult in the civilization : )
14.10 – we came back to the agitation stall in the centre of Visbju. We talked to Volga, a journalist of the “Swedish radio. Gotland”. She is from Belarus and studied in the same university as Nadzya. And she left for Sweden because of love – she met her destiny during her training in Sweden. We gave an interview for Volga for the radio.
15.00 – the Swedish Minister of culture Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth arrived. She is from the party Moderaterna and comes for agitation. In general there are a lot of women in Swedish politics. It’s high time for our women to start moving and then something can change in the country : )
We expected the minister to come surrounded by many cars, bodyguards and snipers as in Belarus. But it turned out to be quite different – no security, no train. One police car came 10 minutes after the beginning of the Minister’s meeting with voters. We should mention the dress-code. It’s not necessary to worry about a tie or a suit – you can wear things you feel comfortable in.
To the right –the Minister of culture in Sweden Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth.
This is her security.
During the Minister’s speech parties entering the Alliance (besides Moderaterna they are People’s, Christian Democrats, Party of the Centre) organized a joint stall handing coffee and homemade cakes to voters. The voters liked the idea and the atmosphere was very warm.
Fare from the Alliance.
17.15 – we walked along the streets, distributed leaflets. It’s cold and rainy. We examined shop windows. Nadzya criticized local footwear: imitation leather, no heels. She explained – the Swedish care about animals that’s why they don’t use leather or fur much. What concerns heels she thinks it’s right, women shouldn’t spoil men. I nodded to show my consent. Actually I didn’t agree with this statement.
20.00 – Integrative party. There were about 30 activists of the headquarters. The Minister of culture was present too. Nadzya told about plans of the opposition for the future President elections. I invited our new friends to come to our country in order to help in carrying out the campaign, in supervision. “Is visiting the Belarusian prison included into the tour programme?” – they ask half in jest, half serious. We convinced them that it could be easily organized. It was pleasant to hear that volunteers for such a tour were quickly found.
We learnt some useful Swedish words: “Draniki” – “Ragmund”, “Cheers!” – “Scool!”
Kraklingbo. Saturday (11.09.2010), Gotland.
Kraklingbo is a famous market in Gotland. It’s 40-50 minutes’ way from Visbju. Thousands of people come there every day and we should use this opportunity for agitation. We spent there the whole day – distributed materials, talked to people. It’s interesting to mention that during our stay in Gotland I met only one person who didn’t speak English.
Nadzya among activists. Kraklingbo.
Agitation materials are for everybody.
Parking line at Kraklingbo. It really works!
Apart from other information I got to know that my colleagues – teachers in Sweden earn about 3000 $ and pensioners have approximately 650 $. It’s difficult to tell an average sum of pension as according to the reform which took place 10 years ago it consists of 3 parts: 1 – one’s own contribution (earning contribution to a special pension account); 2 – employer contribution (it depends on the enterprise, the type of manufacture and the form of ownership); 3 – state supplement. So if you have a good salary you will have a pension of several thousand dollars.
We liked creative work of social democrats. They handed out apples with the sticker of their party. The apples were very tasty that’s why we were “agitated” for several times.
The last day. Sunday (12.09.2010), Gotland – Riga – Motherland.
Half of the night hostel neighbours didn’ let us sleep: two guys were arguing about their rights on a girl. As a result the three of them were howling on one note as awful and loud as March cats. In 10 minutes I was ready to find out what sound is heard when the head is knocked against the wall of this hostel. But Nadzya forbade this scientific research on the brotherly Swedish people.
In general the last day was fine. Inger, an activist of the party Moderaterna, organized for us an excursion to the island Faro close to Gotland. There has been a military base recently and visits were forbidden. Here A. Tarkouski shot his famous film “The Sacrifice”. This island is very interesting. The territory is large with 600 inhabitants. Gotland and Faro are connected by the ferry. You can add the nature, the wind, the sea and here we go: the Paradise for writers, philosophers and hermits. I’d like to stay here for at least half a year.
This is the first time I have travelled by ferry and Nadzya has touched the sea.
The ferry. The only way to the island.
17.30 – leaving for Motherland.
The results of the elections.
The results across the country have been very good for the Alliance: they lacked three seats for the absolute majority in the parliament. On Gotland the situation is a bit worse. Details on the elections are here, here and here. In general the impression of the “Journey to the elections” is very positive: apart from the experience in political technology I have many impressions of new places, our Swedish partners, friendship with Nadzya. We made good friends with Anders and Lars-Erik, and keep in touch with them.
Thank them for an interesting program, thank the fund Jarl Hjalmarson for the training. See you soon!
Peder, a representative of the party Moderaterna. The wife belongs to the Social –Democratic party but it doesn’t interfere with a happy family life. The daughter is agitating for Moderaterna. That’s right!