Opposition candidates have won seats in parliamentary elections in Belarus for the first time since 2000, though critics of the ruling regime said they had been “appointed” to appease the west, and independent observers reported widespread vote-rigging. Anna Konopatskaya, of the United Civic party, won a district in Minsk, and Yelena Anisim, of the Belarusian Language Society, also won a seat. Anisim’s opponent, Yelena Zhuravlyova, a regime loyalist, unexpectedly withdrew from the race last month. Leading critics of the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 22 years, were unimpressed.
“Lukashenko is trying to show that he is creating possibilities [for the opposition], but nothing is actually happening, he just wants money from the west because the economy is headed towards a cliff,” said Andrei Sannikov, an activist who challenged Lukashenko in the 2010 presidential race and was imprisoned for two years in a violent crackdown on protests that arose after the flawed vote.
Nikolai Statkevich, another imprisoned 2010 presidential candidate, who was released in 2015, called the elections a “farce” and asked Belarusians to gather in Oktyabrskaya Square in Minsk on Monday night to “demand real elections”.