On 11 October, Belarus will hold presidential elections. The Belarusian authorities try to create an image of democratic elections at a time when Alexander Lukashenka looks weak due to the economic recession. Realistically no one expects a fair vote count. The official results will be produced to bring victory to Alexander Lukashenka. But there are three things that can significantly change the perception of the campaign: access to the vote count, the number of votes against Lukashenka and the post-election period. These elections differ from the 2006 and 2010 presidential elections. Although the nature of the political regime remains the same: a small amount of opposition in election commissions, forcing students and civil servants to vote in advance or lack of system liberalisation, many minor improvements have actually taken place.
According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an independent influential NGO, state media have not shown the Belarusian opposition in an extremely negative light as they did before. Previously, it looked unbelievable that Belarus Today, the regime’s main propaganda newspaper, gave an opposition candidate an opportunity to speak without censorship. Tacciana Karatkevich, the only democratic candidate on the ballot, had an online conference at Belarus Today on 24 September.
In general, the authorities made some concessions during the campaign. The most important was the release of political prisoners, but also the regime turned a blind eye to massive opposition rallies in Minsk city centre. The protest against the creation of a Russian airbase in Belarus, which took place on 4 October, gathered about 500 participants.
If before election day in 2006 hundreds of democratic activists ended up under arrest, this year the authorities have not arrested a single activist helping Karatkevich’s campaign.