It's election day of Belarus today.
The following is a translation of a Chinese article
on the Belorussian election.
There are lots of different elections in the world. Some are close calls that the result is not out until the last moment, while others do not have any doubts with the winner known before the day. Belarus looks like the latter.
This former-USSR member is doing to hold election on 9 Aug. Alexander Lukashenko, who's named as "Europe's last dictator", has been in power for 26 years, and is seeking yet another re-election. Although it's certain that he's going to win, but this time he's facing unprecedented opposition, which means change might be near.
After the dissolution of the USSR, Belarus becomes independent and defines its own constitution and state composition. After that, there's been only one preseident -- Lukashenko.
For many years, Lukashenko has been accused of jailing opposition leaders, suppressing opinion polls and holding "seriously flawed" elections. He's sanctioned by the United States and the European Union since 2004. President George W. Bush even named Lukashenko "Europe's last dictator". Belarus is also the final country in Europe to uphold capital punishment, which is carried out by a shooting.
Many specialists see Lukashenko as a dictatorial populist, gaining legitimacy from grassroot voters but not international recognition. Western observers believe Lukashenko has been meddling in elections to emerge victorious. According to official figures, his vote share has never fallen below 75%.
Facing the high wall, Belorussians were originally politically insensitive. However, this time the opposition seemed to have gained force. Rallies held by Youtuber Sergei Tikhanovsky, banker Viktor Babariko, and former diplomat Valery Tsepkalo attracted crowds in thousands, which was not seen before.
Of course, all three of them had been disqualified (Patrickov: much like what the US-sanctioned Carrie Lam did to opposition candidates). Still, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the wife of Sergei Tikhanovsky, chose to take over from her husband's struggle to end Lukashenko's rule, and aim to hold a fair, democratic election within half a year. She's a homemaker and teacher.
Tikhanovskaya not only succeeded her husband, but managed to unite all three opposition forces. Together with the wife of Tsepkalo and the election agent of Babariko, they form the "the three musket-women" alliance, asking for peaceful change.
On 30 July, Tikhanovskaya held the biggest rally in Belarus in 10 years. According to NGO, attendance was as high as 60,000. Even the police admitted a level of 20,000. According to Sofya Orlosky, Eurasian Senior Project Manager of Freedom House, the election committee probably did not expect Tikhanovskaya would have rallied so much support and united the opposition, that they did not see her a threat at first.
A quarter-century of "administration fatigue", economic problems, and the inadequate response to the "COVID-19" (Wuhan Pneumonia) epidemic (Lukashenko once said the Wuhan Pneumonia was a "mental disease") all caused the people yearning for change. Before the election, streets of Belarus cities often have protests. Katia Glod, a former election observer of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, commented the importance of "loss of mainstream support" of Lukashenko. "Previously protests seldomly occur outside Minsk, but now there are protests everywhere, meaning that people strongly yearn for change."
The United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Poland all urge Belarus to uphold freedom and fairness of the election, but many are not optimistic. According to Glod, there are jailing and arbitrary prosecution of main candidates, governmental suppression of election activities, as well as possibilities of Lukashenko faking votes to win.
The only "trump card" of opposition is the power of the crowd. As said by Orlosky, Lukashenko would find it harder to control the election if the polling rate is high enough. "The people in Belarus are not blind; they know what's happening in their country. They're ready for change. There is an overwhelming energy that has ripened by now."
Even if Lukashenko is very likely to be "re-elected", it doesn't mean his future is bright. Aside from economic problems, Belarus is also plagued by whether they should be more pro-Russia, or pro-Europe. Lukashenko started out as a pro-Russian, but changed his stance as Moscow pushed for closer intergration, so as to make himself "defender of the nation's sovereignity".
The problem is, if Lukashenko becomes weaker, it would also be harder for him to resist Russia, while suppressing opposition made him lose his opportunity to be closer to the West.
In the opinion of Glod, the rise of support of Tikhanovskaya means the people rather be close to Europe. "They want democracy, rule-of-law and European values, and they have no intention to relent."
Possible reference of the article: Euro News
I find Belarus's story very related to Hoi Bun
, the housing estate I am living in -- not just Hong Kong. The reason is, the political environment at my place used to be very similar to Belarus.Timmy Chow
, the previous councilor, acted similarly to Lukashenko. Before the pro-democracy SJW Lester Shum
came here and won the 2019 election, Chow constantly used his feud with the main pro-Beijing party (DAB)
to maintain his 3-decade councilor status. However, this tactic failed in 2019. After that, Chow showed his true colours as a staunch pro-establishment figure.
Similarly, Lukashenko wanted to portray himself as an anti-Russia leader to induce fear of anti-Russian voters.
In contrast, Tikhanovskaya resembles Lester Shum.
I expect that, even if Lukashenko wins this time, sooner or later the "Hoi Bun effect" would come to Minsk and haunt him.