The crisis in Ukraine has been painful for nearly everyone involved. Russia finds itself under sanctions and at loggerheads abroad. NATO faces as grave a challenge as any since the cold war ended. And Ukraine itself, dismembered and drained by war, struggles to recover even as the fighting in the east of the country grinds to a halt. Yet one clear winner has emerged from the mess: Alexander Lukashenko, the mustachioed strongman of Belarus, to Ukraine’s north. Mr Lukashenko is a former collective- farm boss who has ruled Belarus for 21 years. He stands for his fifth consecutive presidential term on October 11th. To no one’s surprise, he will win. Known as “Europe’s last dictator”, he travels everywhere with his 11-year-old son, who packs a golden pistol and expects to be saluted by Belarusian generals. Elections in 2010 ended with a violent crackdown on protesters and the jailing of Mr Lukashenko’s rivals. The European Union imposed sanctions and travel bans for top officials, including Mr Lukashenko. Yet he approaches the vote feeling secure at home and enjoying a renaissance abroad. He has Ukraine to thank.
The parliament of Belarus decided Tuesday to set the next presidential election for Oct. 11, about a month earlier than originally planned. The decision intensified a debate among opposition parties on whether to put forward candidates for an election all but certain to be won by Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic with an iron grip since 1994.
Belarus on Tuesday named Oct. 11 as the date for a presidential election which is almost certain to usher in a new five-year term for veteran Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko, 60, who has been in power in the ex-Soviet republic since 1994, has said several times he will stand for what will be a fifth consecutive term in office. Lukashenko has been ostracized by the West for most of his rule because of alleged human rights abuses and his clampdown on political dissent which has eradicated any real political opposition. His re-election for a fourth term in 2010 brought huge street demonstrations which were dispersed by riot police. Several opposition candidates were beaten up and detained and dissenters rounded up.
Aware of the possibility that the secret police were listening in, Belarussian dissident Anastasia Palazhanka whispered to the visitors: would they help her arrange her wedding to her fiancé, an imprisoned leader of the Young Front opposition? Palazhanka, a 21-year-old honored by Hillary Clinton last year with the prestigious International Women of Courage award, was conferring with observers from the Organization for Security and Co–operation in Europe (OSCE), who were on hand to monitor parliamentary elections in the former Soviet Republic. They’d dropped by the Soviet-era Hotel Yubileinaya in Minsk to listen to opposition members who -wanted to air concerns about the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko.
Sunday’s elections in Belarus might not meet international or western standards, but Russia gave its stamp of approval today. Voters made “a conscious choice” during the nationwide poll, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to Voice of America. President Alexander Lukashenko’s ruling party swept the elections after opposition parties boycotted and suggested voters stay home. According to the Belarus Central Elections Commission, more than 74.3 percent of those eligible voted.
Enough residents voted in otherwise-boycotted Parliamentary elections in Belarus to make the results valid, the country’s Central Election Commission has declared. The commission ruled Sunday that more than 50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the elections for all 110 seats in the Belarus National Assembly, the nation’s lower house of Parliament, RIA Novosti reported. The country’s two main opposition parties — the United Civic and BPF parties –boycotted the polls because of alleged fraud, urging voters to skip what they called “pseudo-elections” for the “rubber-stamp” lower house.
Parliamentary elections in Belarus have ended without the country’s main opposition parties taking part, following calls for a boycott on grounds of irregularities and illegal detentions. Poll closed at 8pm local time (17:00 GMT) having opened 12 hours earlier. The news comes as the Central Election Commission declared the parliamentary vote valid with a turnout of at least 65.9 per cent, while independent monitors have suggested a far lower turnout at 30 per cent. The main opposition parties said official claims that turnout was 65.9 percent even before polls closed were wildly out of step with reality. “The election commission is unscrupulously lying as these figures are so radically different from those of observers,” Vitaly Rymashevsky, co-chairman of the Belarus Christian Democracy party, told the AFP news agency.
A Belarussian parliamentary election on Sunday is likely to reinforce hardline President Alexander Lukashenko’s grip on the small former Soviet country despite a boycott call from the dispirited opposition. The two main opposition parties have urged people to go fishing and mushrooming rather than vote in what they see as a sham exercise to produce a chamber which largely rubber-stamps Lukashenko’s directives. But four days of early voting by students, armed service staff and police in the tightly-controlled country have already produced a 19 percent turnout, according to official figures, and there was no question of the boycott threatening the overall turnout threshold and the validity of Sunday’s ballot. The outcome will enable Lukashenko to present the election as a genuine democratic process. Western monitoring agencies have not judged an election in Belarus, ruled by Lukashenko for 18 years, free and fair since 1995.
Belarus’s two main opposition parties said they would boycott a parliamentary election next Sunday, denouncing it as a fake exercise and are calling on people to “go fishing or visit your parents” instead. The poll for the 110-seat chamber takes place two years after police cracked down on street protests after a presidential election which installed hardline President Alexander Lukashenko for a fourth term in power. Scores of opposition activists were arrested in the December 2010 unrest and many people, including several candidates who stood against Lukashenko, were handed prison terms. “Honest people cannot take part in pseudo-elections to a fake parliament,” Anatoly Lebedko, leader of the United Civic Party, said at a weekend rally at which the party announced it was withdrawing its 38 candidates from the election. “I know I shall not be elected. And that is in no way because people will not vote for me,” said Grigoriy Kostusev, deputy head of the Belarussian People’s Front, which also opted to pull its 31 candidates out of the poll.
The Belarusian opposition is withdrawing its candidates from this weekend’s parliamentary election. The country’s election commission confirmed on Monday that the United Civic Party and the Belarusian National Front have removed the names of their candidates. The election is slated for Sunday but early voting starts on Tuesday, and people are allowed to vote early without giving any reason for it. Ballot boxes stand unguarded at polling stations for days, which observers have long described as an immense source for violations.
Election officials in authoritarian Belarus have banned a prominent opposition leader from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections. A district election commission in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, alleged Wednesday that 15 percent of supporters’ signatures Alexander Milinkevich submitted to get on the ballot were forged. Milinkevich said the decision was triggered by the “fear” of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the nation of 10 million since 1994.
With parliamentary elections in Belarus due to take place in September, Belarusian journalist, Katerina Barushka, stresses the importance of the elections and the reasons why the international community shouldn’t become indifferent to them. Why should the international community be interested in Belarus and its upcoming parliamentary elections which are due to take place on September 23rd 2012? After all, Belarus is a country which hasn’t amused the international audience with too many surprises recently. There have been no scandals and the parliamentary system is not that different from the representative institutions of other Eastern European countries. There are some quirky peculiarities, however. There is not a single fracture or party majority in the Belarusian parliament, and not a single politician is opposed to the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. By and large, the Belarusian parliament hasn’t been recognised by the international community since 1996, the year in which Lukashenko reorganised the post-Soviet parliamentary structure, the Supreme Council, into its current form. Instead of holding general elections, however, he simply appointed all the representatives of the lower chamber from amongst his most loyal associates in the Supreme Council. Simplicity and straightforwardness has always been the key to effective governing in Belarus.
In September 2012, Belarusians will be asked to elect a new parliament. Opposition is still deciding whether to take part in the elections. They are not sure for a good reason – election fraud has become common practice in the country at all levels. Although Lukashenka recently announced that he would implement political reforms, no one is taking his words seriously. The regime opponents choose from two options – boycott or participation. Boycott would help to delegitimize the elections in the eyes of the international community while active participation could be used as a good opportunity to train activists and to deliver their message to the people.
Around 1,000 protesters took the streets of the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Saturday to demonstrate against the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko and his handling of the country’s worst economic crisis in years. The protesters rallied in the center of Minsk where they called on the government to halt price inflation, free political prisoners and hold free elections.
“Lukashenko has led the country into a political and economic catastrophe,” rally organizer Viktor Ivashkevich said. Minsk has sought to devalue its currency, the ruble, in order to make its exports cheaper and boost its struggling economy. The devaluation, however, has pushed up food prices. Last month, the government lifted restrictions on food prices altogether.