Sam: Hey, all. I know the international tide of late has been pretty disappointing (except for Thighland). But good news, something fascinating is going on in what has been called “Europe’s last dictatorship.”
Anna: About 8 different world leaders just said “hold my dress uniform”
Sam: Well, Alexander Lukashenko has been President of Belarus for as long as the title has existed. Taking office in 1994, has kept Belarus firmly in the shadow of the Old Soviet Union and gained notoriety for his authoritarian fancies, such as outlawing applause (naturally, the first person arrested for clapping had one arm).
Lukashenko has maintained his position through a series of sham elections in which he has banned all serious opposition. To whit: on 29 May, Lukashenko ordered the arrest of his most outspoken opponent, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, but in a shock to the national order, polls of Sunday’s race (at least those not sponsored and published by the Belarusian government) show him losing– to Tsikhanouski’s wife, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
This has been a ray of hope to Belarusian expatriates and pro-democracy advocates the world over, who have staged various marches and protests in support of Tsikhanouskaya– Including here in Israel!
If these elections are indeed free and fair, Lukashenko is unlikely to receive more than 10% of the vote. But that’s a big “if.” The OSCE will not be monitoring this as they did not receive a timely invitation, and said organization has not recognized any of Belarus’ elections as legitimate. Ever. And voting booths have been stripped of their privacy curtains.
Anna: Is this like Syria, where not voting becomes a form of resistance, or is it more like the US where not voting just leaves you fucked?
Sam: Neither. Syria is a de facto one-party state where it’s understood that the choices are limited beyond reason. Literally anyone who isn’t part of the coalition there is an independent. But with Belarus, nobody really knows. If outside polls are to be believed, Lukashenko is so desperately unpopular that the forces in charge of running the elections may not try to help him. But importantly we don’t know. The best thing Belarusian voters can do right now is try.
Anna: Do they seem willing to try?
Sam: I think so. The only question is whether those institutions are willing to hide it. We can’t know that until it’s done. If Lukashenko wins, the vote is unquestionably rigged.
Anna: and if the vote is rigged, does Belarus accept it anyway or go hard?
Sam: In 2020, it’s anyone’s game.