For the first time since 2020

Lukashenko holds elections in Belarus

25.02.2024 13:48

For the first time since the rigged presidential election in summer 2020 and the subsequent mass protests, authoritarian Belarus is holding nationwide elections on Sunday. Presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was forced into exile by ruler Alexander Lukashenko, called for a boycott of the country's parliamentary and local elections. Lukashenko, for his part, announced his candidacy for the 2025 presidential election.

"I call on Belarusians and the international community to categorically reject this fraud," wrote Tikhanovskaya on Sunday on the X platform (formerly Twitter). In addition to 110 members of parliament, around 12,000 representatives of local assemblies will also be newly elected in Sunday's vote.

Tsikhanouskaya calls for a boycott
In her video address, which was held in English, Tsikhanouskaya sharply criticized the vote. The so-called election campaign was in no way in line with democratic principles. Opposition parties and independent media had been silenced. Opposition candidates were not allowed to take part in the election. "Many are being held as political prisoners."

In addition, half a million voters had been driven out of the country and thus deprived of their right to vote, Tikhanovskaya added. She asked the international community not to recognize the vote as legitimate. On Thursday in Vienna, Tsikhanouskaya also called on the parliamentarians of the OSCE countries not to recognize the election.

Votes cast even before polling stations open
The elections in Belarus are considered unfree and manipulated. According to official figures, 41.71 percent of voters in Belarus cast their votes before the polling stations opened in the morning. For years, postal voting has been a popular instrument used by the power apparatus of long-term ruler Lukashenko to achieve the desired results far from any possibility of verification. The opposition internet platform "Serkalo" reported on Friday how students and employees in the public sector and state-owned companies were forced to cast their ballot in the ballot box prematurely and under the supervision of superiors.

Elections "neither free nor fair"
The elections "are neither free nor fair", was the verdict of the Austrian Foreign Ministry on Sunday. It was not surprising that international election observers were excluded. "We will continue to work for a free, independent and prosperous Belarus," it said in a statement.

According to observers, Lukashenko primarily wants to show that he is in full control after the protests three and a half years ago. Lukashenko appeared correspondingly self-confident. When casting his vote, the head of state announced his intention to run again in the next presidential elections in 2025.

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus in an authoritarian manner since 1994. The 2020 election, when he was declared the winner, was followed by months of demonstrations in the country. The opposition declared Tikhanovskaya the actual winner of the election, but Lukashenko had the protests bloodily suppressed. More than 35,000 people were arrested at the time. The EU did not recognize Lukashenko's election victory. Lukashenko is considered to be completely dependent on Russia and Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin.
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