The Election in Belarus

This article was originally uploaded on August 8, 2020.

Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus for 26 years, has been continuously undefeated. He is seen as an unfit ruler, with protestors referring to him as a “cockroach” because of his many controversial actions including rigging elections and removing his opposition, according to TIME Magazine. However, as the election for his sixth term has arisen, newcomer Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has emerged to run against him, and she’s gaining popularity.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is the wife of Sergei Tikhanovsky, a man who showed his disdain for the president of Belarus on his well-known YouTube channel. Tikhanovsky announced he was going to run for President, but he was then abruptly taken as prisoner, arrested only days after his statement. This was not the first person to be arrested from running for president against Lukashenko. It is speculated that Vikortor Babaryko was arrested for unsubstantiated charges. In fact, most all of Lukashenko’s opponents have either been arrested or not been allowed to run against him, as an attempt for Lukashenko to run uncontested. However, Ms. Tikhanovskaya was not about to let Lukashenko win once more.

Ms. Tikhanovskaya has said herself that she is not a politician, as she was a translator and a mother of two children. It wasn’t until she met her husband that she truly saw the unjust behavior in the country come to light. She didn’t expect to be one of the opposing candidates, as she was a stay-at-home mother. However, once her husband was taken as prisoner, things changed. Now she is running for President against Lukashenko, taking over her husband’s place.

It would appear that since the last few opposition candidates have been arrested and taken out of the election, Ms. Tikhanovskaya would be as well. Therefore, Ms. Tikhanovskaya has sent her children away to be safe in case of anything happening to her. According to The Washington Post, because she is a woman, she doesn’t hold any threat against Lukashenko. The president stated that Belarus “has not matured enough” in order to elect a woman as President over the country. One can conclude from his statements that Lukashenko most likely won’t be harming Ms. Tikhanovskaya because of her gender. He simply does not believe a woman can defeat him.

However, Lukashenko has presided over Belarus for far too long. TIME Magazine writes, “Nicknamed ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’ by the George W Bush administration in 2005, Lukashenko’s regime has jailed opposition leaders, repressed opinion polls and held ‘severely flawed’ elections, resulting in sanctions from the U.S. and European Union since 2004. Belarus is also the only country in Europe that has the death penalty with most executions carried out by a shot in the head.” He has treated his civilians terribly and has not kept democracy alive with his rigged elections, letting only himself be crowned as the victor.

NPR also states, regarding his connection with Russia, “Belarus — sandwiched between Russia and NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia — has existed in a vacuum since the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago. Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has survived on energy subsidies from the Kremlin, even while staving off Russian President Vladimir Putin’s overtures for closer political and economic integration.” He has been a ruthless ruler and his citizen’s compliance with him has decreased after his ill-mannered way of handling the worldwide pandemic. He decided to not shut things down, despite the fact that over 68,000 citizens had contracted COVID-19. Lukashenko claimed that the virus could be relieved by drinking vodka and going over to the sauna, regardless of the fact that he himself came down with COVID-19 as well. He claimed that he was able to quickly recover, however, but because of his lack of intellect during the pandemic, many believe this has crossed the line.

Ms. Tikhanovskaya is particularly angry at the way the president of Belarus is handling many situations. She promises to bring healthy democracy to Belarus, as it is incredibly necessary at this time. She is working with two other women who have connections to the other men who were attempting to run against Lukashenko in the current election, but were not able to. Ms. Tikhanovskaya has held many rallies and protests, gathering thousands around the country to fight against the unjust president, Lukashenko, by voting for her instead. She stated, “I’ve had to hide my children. I’m tired of putting up with it. I’m tired of being silent. I’m tired of being afraid.” No longer will Ms. Tikhanovskaya and the other citizens of Belarus put up with Lukashenko’s behavior, as his approval rating is at a dismal 24%. Although this number is low, many speculate that even if Ms. Tikhanovskaya wins by a landslide, Lukashenko will once again rig the election, claiming himself the winner even if he isn’t supposed to be.

No matter what happens during the election on August 9, many are protesting the ill-fit and unpopular leader, Lukashenko. Ms. Tikhanovskaya and others by her side are making a difference by opposing the continuously victorious president. We hope that the election polls portray the true voice of the citizens in Belarus and prove that a woman can lead the change towards true democracy in Belarus.