Belarus started voting in an election on Sunday pitting President Alexander Lukashenko in opposition to a former trainer who emerged from obscurity to guide the most important problem in years in opposition to the person as soon as dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” by Washington.
A girl sporting a protecting face masks stands inside a voting sales space at a polling station throughout the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus August 9, 2020. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
The 65-year-old Lukashenko is sort of sure to win a sixth consecutive time period however might face a brand new wave of protests amid anger over his dealing with of the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial system and his human rights file.
An ongoing crackdown on the opposition might harm Lukashenko’s makes an attempt to fix fences with the West amid fraying ties with conventional ally Russia, which has tried to press Belarus into a nearer financial and political union.
A former Soviet collective farm supervisor, Lukashenko has dominated since 1994.
He faces a shock rival in Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, a former English trainer who entered the race after her husband, an anti-government blogger who meant to run, was jailed.
Her rallies have drawn a number of the greatest crowds because of the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Human rights teams say greater than 1,300 individuals have been detained in a widening crackdown.
Foreign observers haven’t judged an election to be free and truthful in Belarus for 1 / 4 of a century. Despite an election fee ban on the opposition holding another vote depend, Tikhanouskaya urged her supporters to observe polling stations.
“We are in the majority and we don’t need blood on the city streets,” she stated on Saturday. “Let’s defend our right to choose together.”
Portraying himself as a guarantor of stability, Lukashenko says the opposition protesters are in cahoots with overseas backers, together with a gaggle of 33 suspected Russian mercenaries detained in July and accused of plotting “acts of terrorism”.
Analysts stated their detention may very well be used as a pretext for a sharper crackdown after the vote.
“Lukashenko a priori made it clear that he intends to retain his power at any cost. The question remains what the price will be,” stated political analyst Alexander Klaskovsky.