Belarus elections: Europe's 'last dictator' Alexander Lukashenko likely to be re-elected

Most opposition parties have refused to stand against the President of 21 years in an election broadly considered a farce

Nadia Beard
Minsk
Saturday 10 October 2015 23:35
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President for 21 years, Alexander Lukashenko, right, is the election favourite
President for 21 years, Alexander Lukashenko, right, is the election favourite

On a mild day in Minsk, a few plastic stalls bearing the green and red Belarusian flag stand in front of the city’s central Komarovsky Market. The bustling market seems the prime spot for politicians to set out their literal and metaphorical stalls.

But only the stall of Sergei Gaidukevich’s Liberal Democracy Party, attempts to hand out flyers. The rest, who are all in favour of the incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, have nothing.

Despite the appearance of alternatives to Mr Lukashenko, who has been President for 21 years – Mr Gaidukevich, along with the Belarusian Patriotic Party’s Nikolay Ulakhovich – Sunday’s election is broadly considered a farce.

With Mr Lukashenko a self-defined authoritarian leader, most Belarusian opposition parties have refused to take part in the election, and only one of the four candidates running for president, the little-known political activist Tatiana Korotkevich from the Tell the Truth party, is considered to be outside of Mr Lukashenko’s fold.

An advocate for modernisation and “peaceful changes”, Ms Korotkevich has held Mr Lukashenko to account for impeding development. But with an opposition split over whether to boycott the election or support Ms Korotkevich, and the effects of the war in neighbouring Ukraine shoring up support for Mr Lukashenko, the atmosphere has changed in favour of the President.

“The events in Ukraine have frightened people,” Minsk-based political analyst Valery Karbalevich said. “People are afraid that real political change could lead to the disorder and instability that engulfed parts of Ukraine. Lukashenko knows this and is promising people that order and security will be maintained.”

Events in Ukraine have also helped Mr Lukashenko’s relations with the West. Until the crisis, Mr Lukashenko, dubbed “the last dictator of Europe”, was sanctioned to the hilt by the EU and the US over human rights abuses and intolerance to political opposition.

But with the Ukraine crisis souring relations between Vladimir Putin and the West, Mr Lukashenko has emerged as a preferable ally.

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