Lukashenko Re-elected President Amid Protests

5 m.   |  2020-08-20

L ukashenko was re-elected as president for the sixth time amid protests. Technically, he will run the country until 2025.

According to the data of the Central Electoral Commission, Lukashenko gained 80.08% of the votes while his biggest rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya gained 10.09 % of the votes. The other 3 candidates didn’t even cross the 2% threshold: Anna Kanopatskaya received 1.6% of the votes, Andrey Dmitriev 1.21% of the votes and Sergey Cherechen 1.15% of the votes. 4.6% of the voters voted against all candidates. 84.23% of voters participated in the elections, which is the lowest result since 2002.

Before announcing the results of the elections, Lukashenko stated that this was one of the most difficult campaigns. However he predicted that the real struggle would begin after the elections. After the publication of the CEC data, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya rejected the results, stating that as a result of their alternative calculations she was the winner and called Lukashenko to peacefully hand over power. Following this announcement, protests began in 32 cities of Belarus, including in Minsk. There is no clear information about the number of the protestors: according to various data, the number reached tens of thousands.

The protesters were met by harsh clashes and although Tikhanovskaya reminded the security forces that they were the part of the people and called on to stop the violence, special units did not hold back. They used rubber bullets, light grenades and water cannons against the protestors who built barricades with the trash cans. In response to the force used by police protestors used flammable liquid bottles and stones. According to the official data, more than 50 protestors and 39 security members were injured in Belarus. About 3000 people were arrested. There was also talk about a fatality, but the next day it became clear that he was alive.

The Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus announced that criminal cases have been opened in Minsk and other cities of the country on the grounds of “mass riots and violence against internal affairs officers”. 8-15 years of imprisonment is envisaged for such actions.

Lukashenko mentioned that the demonstrators were led from outside. “They do not understand what they are doing and they are already being controlled”: stated the newly elected President Lukashenko, adding that there were also protestors from Ukraine and Russia.

The country was relatively calm on the afternoon of August 10. However, soon it became clear that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya disappeared for more than 5 hours. Earlier the KGB announced about they prevented an assassination attempt against her. She went to the CEC to file a complaint about the election results. Few hours later, she had escaped to Lithuania. From there she addressed the people of Belarus with a video, noting that she remained the same woman. Towards the end of the video Tikhanovskaya says that “Children are the most important thing in our life and that no life is worth what is happening now”.

There were few protestors in the evening of August 10 and the protest was again met with clashes. There have been problems with internet access from the morning of August 9. People in Belarus couldn’t connect to the internet without special programs and applications. Beltelecom announced the day before that the problems were caused by cyber attacks from outside.

Many journalists were injured during the protests. Photo correspondent of “Russia Today” Ilya Pitalev as well as “Meduza” journalist Maxim Solopov disappeared. He was arrested in Minsk and according to his co-workers, he was treated harshly. There is no information about Solopov from the law enforcement agencies of Belarus. Russian journalists Anton Starkov, Dmitry Lasenko, as well as the founder of the WarGonzo project, Semyon Pegov, were detained in Minsk on Sunday and have been released. This was announced by the Russian Ambassador to Belarus Dmitry Mezentsev.

International Reaction

T he President of Ukraine V. Zelensky was the first to address the situation in Belarus.

He called on Belarus to ensure the freedom of its people. Lukashenko received the first congratulations from China, Russia, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States Senate Jim Risch called on the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to resign if his re-election was undemocratic. The European Union also condemned the “disproportionate and unaccepted state violence” against protestors in Belarus. The EU also called on setting free all the people arrested.

The European Union may discuss the issue on imposing new sanctions on Minsk, which is not excluded by the Foreign Ministry of Poland. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawecki suggested holding an EU summit related to the situation. The EU and the USA will unlikely impose sanctions on Belarus, because their relations are just improving. Tough sanctions will inevitably increase Russia’s influence in Belarus.