With the recent elections in Belarus being declared by many as “rigged“, the country took a step towards matching the Russian elections, described in equal terms at the international level.
Crux of the Matter
Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus recently won the Presidential elections, with more than 80% of votes going in his favour. Lukashenko has been the President since 1994, and was described by the former US President George Bush as the “last dictator in Europe”.
Opposition And Rigging
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya became the main candidate against Lukashenko after the other two opponents had their candidacies rejected. The first, Viktor Babariko, was arrested, while the other candidate Valery Tsepkalo fled to Russia fearing action by Lukashenko. In his statement, Lukashenko claimed that people supporting the rallies of Tikhanovskaya would be treated as terrorists.
After the results, the elections were declared “rigged” by most of the opposition leaders and experts. Tikhanovskaya fled the country, citing threat to her whole family as the reason for the escape.
After becoming the President in 1994, Alexander Lukashenko dismantled the parliament in 1996 and reappointed it in 2000 with his “handpicked” members. In 2004, he removed the limit of “two-terms” on Presidents.
All elections since Lukashenko came into power have been declared unfair and rigged by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and several sanctions have been levied on him by the UN, the US and several other powers over human rights violations and unfair elections.
Lukashenko is among the leaders who have chosen ‘unusual’ measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. No lockdown was imposed in the country, with Lukashenko claiming instead that the virus can be cured by “sauna and vodka”.
On The Russian Path?
In July, 2020, Russia passed a referendum enabling Vladimir Putin to continue his reign as the President till 2036. The amendment allows him the chance to contest in Presidential elections of 2024 and 2030. The referendum was supported by over 78% of the Russian voters, while the opposition leaders claimed that the elections were rigged and unfair.
The referendum also banned same-sex marriages in Russia, with Putin, who associates himself with the Russian Orthodox Church, declaring that gay marriage wouldn’t be allowed as long as “he is in the Kremlin”.
A Short History Of The Nation
- Belarus was under the rule of several countries before World War I.
- 1918: It was declared as the independent Belarusian National Republic.
- 1919: Russia annexed it.
- 1922: Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Byelorussian SSR) became the founding member of the USSR.
- 1930s: More than 100,000 people executed in Belarus by orders of Joseph Stalin, with several thousands being sent to forced labour camps.
- 1941: Nazi Germany invaded Belarus and killed more than 1 million people, eliminating most of the Jews in the region.
- 1945: Most of Belarus was merged into the Soviet Union after World War II ended.
- 1986: More than 20% of agricultural land in Belarus was “contaminated” by the Chernobyl explosion in neighboring Ukraine.
- 1991: Belarus declared independence as the Soviet Union was dissolved.
- 1994: Alexander Lukashenko became the President.
Relationship With Russia
- Belarus and Russia have shared a cordial relationship since the independence of the former.
- 2002: First conflict between the two was observed when Belarus rejected the Russian proposal of a union.
- 2010: A tussle over the supply of oil and electricity from Russia has been going since 2010.
- January 2020: Lukashenko accused Putin of attempting to merge Belarus back into Russia. In return, Russia withdrew its oil subsidies to Belarus.
- July 2020: Belarus got 33 “private military contractors” of Russia arrested on the charges of inciting riots. Russia declared that the contractors were present there only due to missing a connecting flight back to their country, and warned it of “grave consequences”.
- Little Russia is a geographical and historical term used to describe the modern-day territories of Belarus and Ukraine. The term was first used by Galician ruler Bolesław-Jerzy II in 1335.)
- The Pahonia is the historical coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was also the official emblem of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in 1918 and of the Republic of Belarus from 1991 to 1995. On May 14, 2007 the Pahonia was declared cultural heritage of Belarus.
- The cultural heritage of Belarus includes both material and immaterial assets, in accordance with the Law on Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Belarus. In 2007 a total of 4,811 objects of heritage were listed.
- Bloomberg – Putin Wins 16 More Years of Reckless Behavior
- CNN – Belarus opposition candidate flees to Lithuania amid crackdown on election protests
- Reuters – Russian parliament begins legalising ban on same-sex marriage
- BBC – Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko under fire
- Al Jazeera – Belarus election challenger asks Lukashenko to quit amid protests
- World Atlas – Belarus History Timeline