Boiling anger, unfair practices, falsified results, manipulated elections, and Europe’s last dictator. Belarus, a country with massive problems and protests. Located in the continent of Europe, also called White Russia, the smallest of the three Slavic republics. A peace-loving state on the verge of a collapse, what went wrong, and how?
Belarusian “democracy” meant one person, one vote, once. This concept was shattered when the recent elections were considered improper and corrupt. Lukashenko, the president of Belarus now stands as a fraudulent president who manipulated the elections to save his spot. Lukashenko’s first election victory in 1994 was competitive after which he solidified his control over Belarus’s legislature, judiciary and media, and used the KGB spy apparatus inherited from Soviet predecessors to crush dissent. His regime grew rapidly authoritarian, statist, and even murderous while the rest of Central Europe underwent democratic and market transition. Lukashenko’s brand of welfare authoritarianism combined stability, full employment, and high public investment to gain support with surveillance, persecution, and suppression of opposition.
The elections that took place on 9th August 2020 seems to have triggered the mass protest and the anger among people of its nation. The elections stand disputed and immoral after the government exit polls declared that Lukashenko had a preponderance of 80 percent votes. The public agitated with this result started stomping down the roads to gain some support for the opposition parties. Ms. Tikhanovskaya, leader of the opposition party, had entered the race after her husband, Sergey Tikhanovsky, a popular blogger and would-be presidential candidate, was arrested and thrown in jail on what was widely viewed as trumped-up financial charges. A strong woman with motives, she flew away from Belarus “for the sake of her children” as reported by various news channels. The other two women are also trying to escape due to constant threats.
With no wonder, people have stated their disapproval with the ongoings in Belarus. For Lukashenko, the countrywide protests are being seen as the most sustained challenge to his presidency since he first took over 26 years ago. Thousands among the pro-democracy demonstrators are factory workers, who traditionally formed Lukashenko’s support base. Belarus’s ambassador to Slovakia has also expressed solidarity with protesters, as have members of the police force and the state-run media.
Lukashenko’s disastrous mishandling of the coronavirus crisis severely dented his paternalistic appeal even among old supporters. After initially denying that “corona-psychosis” would harm the country, he advocated bizarre cures such as vodka and tractor-driving. Worse still, he showed contempt for victims by blaming them for their death.
Even if Lukashenko rides out this crisis, at whatever cost, he is Belarus’s past. He has played the West long enough. The status quo is no longer sustainable. Because of the simple fact, that Belarus is not to be ruled but to be managed.