Belarus Elections 2020: Explained

  11-Aug-2020 03:00:30

Belarus Russia USSR rigged elections Svetlana Tikhanovskaya Alexander Lukashenko

Belarus witnessed its 6th presidential elections on August 9, 2020. The most interesting fact about this election is that since Belarus was founded in 1994, it has been governed by the same president for 26 years till now and the president Alexander Lukashenko is once again favored to win. Alexander Lukashenko's 26-year long reign is either explained by his popularity or his rigging of elections in order to stay in power. However, the latter explanation is accepted worldwide and he has been given the label of “Europe’s last dictator”.

A Brief History of Belarus:

In 1922, Belarus( then "Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic") joined the USSR and was one of the fifteen Soviet Social Republics who was a part of the USSR. Belarus has had close relations with Russia ever since.

Around 1930s Belarus and other Soviet states suffered The Great Purge under the reign of Joseph Stalin. World War II caused severe damage to the nation. According to an estimation around 1/4th of the country's population died in the WWII era.

The nation was still recovering when the Chernobyl disaster happened in 1986, Though the mishap took place in Ukraine radioactive emissions also took over Belarus and almost 1/5th of its population suffered from the incident.

The growing unrest in the USSR around the late 1980s eventually resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Officially, The Supreme Soviet voted USSR itself out of existence on December 26, 1991.

Belarus as a Competitive Authoritarian Regime:

The term "competitive authoritarian" was firstly used by Lucan Way and Steven Levitsky in their book, mostly using it for post-Soviet countries. It can be defined as the countries which are neither authoritarian nor democratic.

In a competitive authoritarian regime, a country conducts free elections but no opposition can win the elections. “The country will have formal democratic institutions, but the reforms which are reinforced by incumbent leaders place them at a significant advantage to remain in power despite the "free and fair elections".

Theoretically, the constitution of Belarus defends the democratic rights of the people. Article 1, 3, and 4 of the Belarusian constitution ensures free elections, Article 16, 31, 33, and 36 of the constitution protects civil liberties and Article 4 also ensures a level playing field for all the competitors in the elections.

However, the theory is far different from what happens in Belarus. According to the U.S. based NGO The Freedom House, Belarus is completely authoritarian, the media houses have failed miserably in providing the right information about the candidates and what a democratic election should be like. The organization also noticed irregularities in vote countings and restrictions in freedom of expression in election campaigns of other candidates.

Fundamental freedoms were disregarded and the integrity of the election process was not adequately safeguarded” as they noticed the ballot boxes were stuffed and observers were not allowed to watch the ballot box countings in the 2019 elections.
The electoral commission responsible for elections in the country is completely aligned with president Lukashenko. The country has numerous laws that completely contradict the functioning of a democratic state. Journalists are monitored over their work and are frequently arrested for doing their job. There is a law in the country that states that "honour and dignity of high-ranking officials should be preserved". This law prohibits the media to question the government. Protests in the country require permits that are usually denied. The supreme court justices are appointed by the president. Religious sentiments of minorities are always threatened, as religious publications of minorities are banned and on the other hand, special privileges are given to the Belarusian orthodox churches.

2020 Elections:

In the beginning, Alexander Lukashenko had two main rivals who were almost successful in becoming the face of opposition in the elections but Victor Babaroico, a banker, was detained on the charges of money laundering and was barred from running in the elections and Valery Tsepkalo, who served as the ambassador to the U.S from 1997 to 2002 and the ambassador to Mexico from 2005 to 2017, was denied participation as the signatures he had to collect for becoming eligible for running—Belarus’s rules require a minimum of 100,000 signatures to be signed by supporters for taking part in the elections—were termed as invalid by the election commission.

Amid all the lost hope, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, wife of a popular blogger and YouTuber, Sergei Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as the new face of opposition. Sergei Tikhanovskaya was detained for protesting against the government in the "stop the cockroach" or the Anti-cockroach movements across the nation in 2020. Maria Kolesnikova, the campaign manager for Victor Babaroico and Veronica Tsepkalo, wife of Valery Tseokalo, has also joined Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in her movement. The trio has been successful in gaining support from the people of Belarus and is being considered as the toughest challenge for president Lukashenko's 26-year-old reign.

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On the eve of the polling day, police rushed into the opposition headquarters and detained Maria Maroz, the campaign manager for Tikhanovskaya and Maria Kolesnikova. Almost 10 other people were also detained and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was in hiding, since Saturday, before briefly emerging in front of a massive crowd to cast her vote.

Aftermath of results

The results of the elections were declared on Monday with Lukashenko winning 80.23% of the votes and her rival, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya getting just 9.9%. Protests have been happening since Sunday as many people took to the streets in opposition to the perceived rigging of the election. Despite, a government clampdown on internet services and a protestor being run down by a police truck, protestors continue to demonstrate in the thousands. The government has said that it will crackdown on the protestors and 100’s of them have been arrested. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Tsikhanouskaya are unknown, even to her own staff, which has gotten many people worried.


The trio of women have lost the allegedly rigged election, Alexander Lukashenko’s 6th term presidency is almost final, but they have been successful in sparking hope in the eyes of Belarusians who are fed up with economic stagnation and Lukashenko's apparent disregard for the impact of COVID-19.

By: Abhishek Kumar

Modified by: Team NewsExplain