Is Belarus the least democratic country in Europe?
— 2 minute read — By Ed Bazeley
A clue to the extent of control that Lukashenko has over Belarus lies in the fact that he is the country’s only ever modern president. Becoming head of state in 1994, he then triumphed in four successive elections. Younger Belarusian citizens grow up and become voters without truly knowing what a more progressive version of the country, formerly occupied by Russia, would look like without a tyrannous ruler. But the problems delve deeper than that.
Most recently he won again on 9th August. These elections have always been surrounded by sinister and unseemly circumstances. One could even allege that not a single one of Lukashenko’s electoral wins was legitimate. The waters surrounding this issue are deliberately muddy courtesy of the secrecy the president likes to utilise as a governmental tool.
It was only the 2020 rendition of a rigged Belarusian election which came under the spotlight of worldwide mainstream media. Lukashenko initially brought attention to his questionable leadership in 2020 when he made a bogus claim that “vodkas and saunas” are the cure to the COVID-19 crisis. The Belarus Premier League was the only football league in Europe to play on with crowds during the peak of the coronavirus.
It is globally agreed that the result of the 2020 election was in fact false; leader of the political opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya claimed that she in fact won the vast majority of the popular vote a couple of days after the election. Following these bold claims Mrs Tikhanovskaya was forced to leave the country, and will soon approach the UN Security Council.
In the immediate aftermath of the result, the country filled with protests. During violent clashes between state police and protesters 3,000 arrests were made and it is believed a further 3,700 have been made since then. On both 16th and 23rd August, approximately 100,000 demonstrators gathered in the centre of Minsk, the country’s capital.
Pro-Lukashenko supporters have gathered in lesser numbers. They believe that his rule is the backbone of Belarus’s stability. On 17th August, a multitude of staff for Belarus state TV resigned.
It is unclear what will happen next in this fascinating conflict within the country of Europe’s longest-standing leader but it is likely that the Security Council meeting in the UN will have a significant bearing on the matter and ultimately the direction of Belarus’s future.