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The Belarus issue: Europe’s last dictatorship

The parliament of the landlocked country in Eastern Europe proclaimed the sovereignty of Belarus on 27 July 1990. Following the fall of USSR, Belarus  gained independence on 25th August 1991. Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko served as president of Belarus since the establishment of the office 26 years ago, on 20 July 1994. By heading an authoritarian regime, he has been often termed as “Europe’s last dictator.”

Elections held in the country are not free and fair. Repression of opponents is widespread with serious encroachment of freedoms of the media.

It has been reported that various sanctions have been imposed on Lukashenko and his officials for claims regarding human rights violations. Moreover, the judiciary of the nation is also combating issues related to corruption. The judiciary is subject to political interference.

Citizens have claimed that the problems of Belarus are not only the result of the internal issues of the Government but also because of:

  1. Lack of Education
  2. Lack of quality health care
  3. An Economy that does not correspond to contemporary times
  4. The overall mentality of citizens.

The country that has always managed to be embroiled in controversy, has once again come to limelight and made headlines for its extensive protests. The outcome of the election result sparked violent protests as the results declared that Lukashenko was to continue his 26-year rule.

This is not the first time that his power has been challenged as time and again election results have been disputed.

After Lukashenko’s opposers were jailed or exiled, this election had Svetlana Tikhanovskaya — a former teacher — emerge as Lukashenko’s main political rival. Svetlana’s husband — a prominent blogger — was considered as one of the largest competitors to Lukashenko’s rule until he was arrested in May 2020.

The weeks leading up to the election saw massive protests that rocked the nation in support of Tikhanovskaya.

However, despite the overwhelming support, the results declared Lukashenko as the winner by claiming a landslide victory where he secured approximately 80% of the vote. The results ignited huge protests that had demonstrators across the country call for the resignation of Lukashenko along with claiming that the elections were rigged.

Soon Tikhanovskaya fled Belarus to neighbouring country, Lithuania. A video released showed her challenging the results. She said that the copies of the counted votes showed that she secured 60% to 70% of them.

Moreover, Svetlana urged the government to end violence and engage in dialogue with the protesters.

“The Belarusians will never want to live under the current government,” she said. “The authorities have turned peaceful demonstrations into a bloodbath.” Svetlana also informed that she was looking after how to peacefully transition power.

What did the International community say?

Canada: A statement released by Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, informed that the country is “deeply concerned by violence following Belarus presidential elections.”

The people of Belarus have demonstrated their desire for democracy through their unprecedented mobilization over the past few weeks,” the statement reads.

Moreover, Canada “voiced its concern over the arrests of opposition candidates, prominent Belarusian bloggers and activists for participating in peaceful protests.”  The country is now calling on the government to “exercise restraint and uphold respect for human rights.”

Lithuania: A tweet by the Lithuanian foreign affairs minister, Linas Linkevicius, cleared that he had spoken to Champagne about the situation in Belarus. “The international community simply cannot stay indifferent to recent brutalities,” he wrote.

European Union: Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell of the EU stated that the elections in Belarus where “neither free nor fair.” “EU calls on #Belarus leadership to initiate genuine dialogue w/ broader society & stop unacceptable violence and crackdown on freedoms of assembly, media and expression,” he wrote.

Moreover, he also explained that the EU would conduct an in-depth review of the situation and its relationship with Belarus. It was also cleared by Borell that work had begun regarding “sanctioning those responsible for violence and falsification.”

United Nations: The UN has condemned the act that has led to gross violations of human rights and oppression of free speech and expression.

People have the right to speak up and express dissent, even more in the context of the elections, when democratic freedoms should be upheld, not suppressed,” Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet said in an issued.

According to the Human Rights Chief, the arrests made during the protests were compounding to violation of international human rights standards.

What did Lukashenko say?

Although Lukashenko has dismissed the claims of the protesters, he has time and again asked the authority to refrain from unnecessary use of force. “If a person falls down and lies still, don’t beat him!” he said.

Moreover, he has also explained that foreign agitators from Poland, the Netherlands, Ukraine and some members of Russia’s opposition have been attending the protests. “Do you want me to sit and wait until they turn Minsk upside down? We won’t be able to stabilize the situation afterwards.

We must take a break, collect ourselves and calm down. And let us restore order and deal with those who have come here” exclaimed Lukashenko. “Nobody believes these horror stories about external forces.

We are tired of constant enemies and conspiracies, he usurped power and has not left for 26 years,” protester Galina Erema told The Associated Press.

Conclusion:

The government has started releasing the detainees informed several media outlets. Moreover, it issued an apology publically with the aim to calm down the citizens.

The protest that gained momentum after news regarding the death of a protester in Minsk was revealed, is supposedly going to be brought under control claimed Lukashenko and Putin.

The worsening situation of Belarus can be handled only with the active participation of the International Community where Belarus should not be abandoned not only to Putin but also to Lukashenko.

Human rights violations and oppression of people should be immediately checked by the concerned nation as the situation is taking a turn for the worse.

                                                                                                                                          By :-Sagarika Mukhopadhyay

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