Written by Jahnavi Rathore, a grade 11 student
Europe is considered to be the nexus of globalization and evolution. Most of the European countries are considered to have the finest living conditions along with the title of the strongest democracies. But even today, Belarus is led by a dictator who is directing the nation on the wrong foot for the past 26 years.
A quick introduction to the country
Belarus is a country located between Poland and Ukraine in East Europe. Formerly known as Belorussia or White Russia, this country gained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union. In 1994, the country adopted a constitution that declared it to be a democratic social republic nation granting all the rights to its citizens. In the same year, a free and fair election was held which elected Alexander Lukashenko as the president of Belarus. He is the first and the only president of the country to date, who has sustained his position for six terms continuously.
Lukashenko has driven the country’s economy into one financial crisis after another by various excessive account deficits. In June, the inflation rate picked up to 5.2% along with a widening gap between the incomes of the people living in Minsk, capital of Belarus, and the outlying regions.
How did he maintain his position?
In 1996, Lukashenko claimed victory in a fraud-tainted referendum that proposed restarting his five-year term with enhanced powers. Through various constitutional reforms and a plethora of changes with the existing ones, he was able to enhance his power and became more influential than the parliament itself. Every election to be held after the one in 1994 is considered to be partial and a perceptible attempt of Lukashenko to retain the powerful position of president. He has superintended his full control over the media and has left no scope for the opposition party to win the elections. Even during the COVID crisis, his nonchalant response to the situation was enough for people to stand up against the inept government.
On 9th August 2020, Presidential elections were held and Lukashenko faced a strong opposition that he had never dealt with in the earlier elections. Three opposition parties were forced to back down because of false accusations made by Lukashenko’s government. On 29 May 2020, the main opposition-Sergei Tikhanovsky was also put behind bars on murder charges. He had a YouTube channel in which he interviewed the citizens and asked them about their conditions to expose the negligence of the government authorities. Eradicating all the obstructions in the path to victory, Lukashenko thought that the triumph was at his behest.
But Sergei’s wife, Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya, decided to stand as a candidate on behalf of her husband who was behind bars.
On 30th July 2020, her rallies attracted thousands supporting her will to break the ossified structure of the government. Lukashenko’s government found it difficult to even gather a hundred people who acceded to his cause. On election day, even after gathering favorable support from the citizens, Svetlana lost the elections and it was an evident case of meddling with the votes. Authorities cited restriction on ballot access, occluding independent observers to ensure the smooth functioning of the entire process. Once again, Lukashenko was elected as the president but this time the citizens were well aware of the atrocities of the authorities that should have been revolted against a long time ago. Rather than succumb to despair,
Belarusians have refused to accept that there is no point in voting.
Hours after the election results were announced, Svetlana fled to Lithuania amid unrest in Belarus. In a press conference, she implied that the triggered skirmishes from the elections were a threat to the protection of her children.
Also known as ‘anti-cockroach revolution’, it was a peaceful protest asserting the recounting of votes. Lukashenko attacked the protestors violently in an attempt to mute their voices. Within 3 days, 7000 people were detained and tortured. The loyal supporters of the president, as well as the staff of the state broadcaster, walked off from their jobs showing their support and participating in the rallies.
In June 2020, The government barred internet services throughout the country with a 3-day complete blackout to curb the spread of information on the ongoing protests.
Even today, protests against the government are active as the people continue to fight against the president whose term has been unsatisfactory and non-democratic. With the flourishing support for democracy, Lukashenko’s government is finding it hard to stay afloat and sustain its position. Belarus’s struggle is a powerful reminder of the basic right to freedom as the demonstrations are expected to grow.
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