Belarus is a country from Eastern Europe, like most of the nations in the region it gained independence in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Belarus finalized its constitution in 1994 which sought to make Belarus a sovereign state which respected the rights of all the citizens and its very first article declared it a democratic state. In the subsequent elections, Alexander Lukashenko became the president. In 1996 Lukashenko held a referendum which was passed after some dodgy behind the scenes work. This referendum made the president even stronger than the parliament and granted him discretionary powers.
Lukashenko has won all the subsequent elections till date. He declared opposition leaders terrorists to fuel his propaganda. Opposition leaders were jailed or were forced to escape the country. In the most recent elections were of 9th August 2020, Lukashenko faced the largest opposition he ever faced under his regime in these elections.
Lukashenko had to compete with three major opposition leaders Victor Babaryko, Valery Tsepkalo and Sergei Tikhanovsky. So, like every authoritarian he decided to eliminate them which went successful for the most part as he jailed Babaryko for false money-laundering accusations, Tsepkalo was disqualified from the elections for bureaucratic reasons and Tikhanovsky was jailed for protesting. But, Belarus now had an unlikely opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovsky who took the place of her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky. Svetlana had the support of the majority of the nation, she had thousands rallying around her and finally, Belarusians had hope for a future of freedom and a future under a new president. To further prove everyone that Lukashenko is naive and an oppressor, the dictator himself said, “Our constitution is not for a woman. And our society is not mature enough to vote for a woman. Because in our constitution, the president has strong power”. Now we can add sexist to the long list of words the world associates Lukashenko with.
On the elections of 9th August 2020, Belarus had the highest number of voter turnout in its history. But, like every election so far these were also controlled by Lukashenko – opinion polls were banned, independent observers were not allowed to oversee the elections and the media was under the control of the regime due to which the flow of information was kept under a check. Lukashenko isn’t new to rigging elections as after the 2006 elections he said, “last Presidential elections were rigged; I already told this to the Westerners. 93.5% voted for President Lukashenko They said it’s not a European number. We made it 86.”So, this time it wasn’t new as Lukashenko won the elections with 80% votes. The EU, UK and USA have rejected the elections and have called for reelection.
Svetlana Tikhanovsky was forced to flee to neighbouring Lithuania to protect her family. The citizens of Bulgaria are unhappy from the fraud elections so in the days following the results the country is having mass protests with over 200,000 civilians taking to the streets in Minsk, the capital. These protests were in the coming as Lukashenko has pushed into disaster after disaster. Belarus because of his policies went into economic meltdown in 2016 as the GDP growth rate was negative. He gave the most idiotic statement that a leader can give during a pandemic. He said that the virus can be cured by vodka and sauna. He didn’t impose a lockdown and he didn’t suspend events due to which he himself got the virus. Lukashenko’s disrespect for the principle of freedom of speech and expression and the violent crackdown of protestors proves that he is ready to do anything to stay in power.
Russia arguably Belarus’s biggest ally has remained remarkably silent till now on the situation. EU nations such as Lithuania have put sanctions on Belarus and have urged the EU to do the same. Now even the US has sent hundreds of troops to Lithuania as tensions are escalating. Belarus might finally have a chance to be a democracy a chance to overthrow Europe’s so-called last dictator.