(Image source: https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/c40rjmqdq78t/belarus)
The Question of Legitimate and Internationally Recognized Elections in Belorussia
Insights on the Issue
President Alexander Lukashenko, the current president of Belorussia, has been elected on the establishment of the office 26 years ago, on July 20th, 1994 and he has been the first and only president of Belorussia ever since. According to multiple international institutions, under his leadership the country lacked freedom and failed to meet standards of democracy. For example, according to Freedomhouse, a well-known international organization for analyzing democracy and net freedom around the world, the country is deemed not free in both political rights and civil liberties, as the president had held numerous political prisoners. He has also only selected those who were affiliated with his party as part of the house of representatives. Other than Freedomhouse, the World Justice Project (WJP) has ranked it 68th out of 120 countries in terms of freedom. Belorussia’s rates are particularly low for lawful transition of power (peacefully transferring power), civic participation (citizens can make a change), freedom of expression, and respect for due process (government respecting all rights a person has).
During the pre-election, none of the 3 most popular challengers were able to register as a candidate and were all arrested for unjustifiable reasons:
- Syarhey Tsikhanouski, a YouTube blogger, known for showcasing current issues in Belorussia, was arrested for allegedly violating public order and using force against police.
- Viktar Babaryka, a former banker and philanthropist, was arrested for a series of alleged financial crimes.
- Valery Tsepkalo, a former diplomat and the founder of Belarusian Hi-Tech Park has fled Belarus with his two children for fear of arrests.
The supporters of those candidates gathered support for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who became the only independent candidate in the presidential race.
During the election, the citizens tried to get actively involved in the voting process to ensure the quality of the votes, but active complaints often resulted in threats of arrestment. For the first time in the history of the Belarusian presidential elections, observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) were not invited to participate. Some of the voting ballots were reported to be intentionally invalidated in favor of Lukashenko. Multiple pieces of evidence such as audio recordings and information from a few other independent sources showed that votes were invalidated or altered to ensure the success of Lukashenko, resulting in him eventually winning the election.
Evidence of election fraud and falsification has led to protests in Minsk, the capital of Belorussia. Those protests, which were mostly peaceful, were met with flash grenades, rubber bullets, and water cannons. At least two casualties have been confirmed. The government had shut down the internet across the country while blaming those protests on other foreign countries. Protesters are held prisoners in horrible conditions: up to 60 people were held in cells only meant for four, with no access to water, food, or hygiene essentials. His major opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has fled to Lithuania and is currently on Belorussia’s wanted list.
International Reaction and the UN’s Reaction
The United Nations has urged the government to show maximum restraint to the citizens and to ensure full respect for the rights of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and all countries to avoid actions that would cause further tension with Belorussia.
The international reactions are indicated in this map:
- Red - Disapproval, rejection of the result
- Green - Congratulated Lukashenko for his re-election
- Yellow - Different opinions in the country regarding this issue or maintaining military cooperation with Belorussia
- Grey - No evident reaction
Find out more by watching the exiled president of Belarussia speak in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJ3WxO5AGS4