“Elections in Belarus are nothing more than a farce”

As of: February 25, 2024 5:05 a.m

A new parliament is being elected in Belarus today – although the election is unlikely to be free or fair: opposition members have either fled abroad or are in prison.

The ruler of Belarus is proud to have learned from his big eastern neighbor for today’s election day: “We have introduced a uniform voting day following the example of Russia,” explains Alexander Lukashenko. “On this day, members of parliament and representatives of regional councils are elected. We have regional, district and state councils, as it was in the Soviet era.”

And something else is the same as back then: There are no opposition candidates, a total of only four parties are registered, all of them on Lukashenko’s course.

Mass arrests after the past election

The human rights organization Wjasna got to the point: It puts an asterisk after the term election because today it has nothing to do with a real vote, free and fair. OSCE election observers were not admitted to this first vote after the extremely controversial one in August 2020, in which, according to official information, ruler Lukashenko received 80 percent of the vote.

Challenger Svetlana Tichanowskaya only got ten percent – she had entered the race for her husband Sergei Tichanowskaya, who was arrested before the election, and was completely underestimated by Lukashenko. The regime brutally suppressed mass protests after the obviously rigged election, and tens of thousands of arrests followed.

Repression is increasing

The human rights situation in Belarus has not improved before today’s election, on the contrary: there is an atmosphere of lack of freedom and fear, says Tikhanovskaya, now an opposition leader in exile: “In Belarus, 15 to 20 people are put in prison every day. For comments , supporting Ukraine because they subscribe to independent media or speak out for democracy.”

This is done every day to intimidate Belarusians, she complains. “The political prisoners who, like my husband, have been incarcerated for years are being held in inhumane conditions and are being slowly killed. Viktor Babariko, Maria Kolesnikova, our Nobel Prize winner Ales Beljatsky and my husband Sergei Tichanovsky are in solitary confinement. Lawyers are not allowed left them. Letters are not delivered. We don’t know what happens to them. I don’t know if my husband is still alive.”

The opposition calls for a boycott

The civil rights organization Vyasna estimates that 1,400 political prisoners are currently in prison. Hundreds of thousands of people have left autocratic Belarus – but citizens living abroad are not allowed to take part in today’s vote.

What is the significance of this choice? “Well, all the so-called elections in Belarus are now nothing more than a farce, an imitation,” says Tikhanovskaya. “While the country is in such a deep political and humanitarian crisis and people are being oppressed because of their views, free and fair elections are out of the question. And no matter what election results the Belarusian authorities report, we call on the international community not to and we urge Belarusians to ignore the elections.”

There was a wave of raids and arrests in the weeks before the election. Because of the strong repression, protests like those in 2020 are considered impossible after today’s election.

Frank Aischmann, ARD Moscow, tagesschau, February 24, 2024 7:32 p.m

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