On 1 September the Central Elections Committee of Belarus announced that four presidential candidates had submitted enough signatures to run in elections scheduled for 11 October this year. Although few question the outcome of this elections and the official victory of the incumbent President Alexander Lukashenka, the elections take place in a very different geopolitical context. In the 2010 presidential elections, the authorities saw the Belarusian opposition as the main threat and crushed protests, putting several presidential candidates in jail. After the recent events in Ukraine the authorities seem to view Russia as a more serious threat although they would not publicly admit it. Belarus only had real elections during a brief period of competitive politics in the early 1990s, prior to the election of current President Alexander Lukashenka in 1994. This is why for many Belarusians, particularly older generations, elections are not an opportunity to change their leadership but something of an old ritual.
As in the Soviet times, on election day they would go to a local election polling station – usually located in a secondary school – to vote and enjoy heavily subsidised food, beer and vodka. In the 2014 local elections, one US dollar was enough to buy a shot of vodka and a sandwich with ham.
Another element of the tradition is that in Soviet times it did not matter how people voted because the authorities knew the result in advance.
Although plenty of billboards remind citizens of the election date, beyond this it is hard to detect signs of an election campaign taking place in Belarus. State-owned media dominates the media landscape with the opposition almost unseen on TV. Independent information is available on the Internet, but the vast majority of people receive their news on television where the opposition is not welcome.