Friday, Sep 25, 2020 | Last Update : 03:22 AM IST

184th Day Of Lockdown

Maharashtra126379995603033015 Andhra Pradesh6543855794745410 Tamil Nadu5636915082108871 Karnataka5485574446588331 Uttar Pradesh3588932895945135 Delhi2492592133045014 West Bengal2283021989834421 Odisha184122149379763 Telangana1792461481391070 Bihar169856155824870 Assam159320129130578 Kerala13863398720554 Gujarat1247671051913337 Rajasthan116881972841352 Haryana113075908841177 Madhya Pradesh108167836182007 Punjab99930754092860 Chhatisgarh8618347653680 Jharkhand7267358543626 Jammu and Kashmir65026421151024 Uttarakhand4177729000501 Goa2875322726360 Puducherry2319118065467 Tripura2227215441245 Himachal Pradesh124387836125 Chandigarh102987411123 Manipur9010683859 Arunachal Pradesh7385540813 Nagaland5544445110 Meghalaya4733252838 Sikkim2447190529 Mizoram158510120
  World   Europe  09 Aug 2020  Belarus' strongman president faces a tough election

Belarus' strongman president faces a tough election

AP
Published : Aug 9, 2020, 2:17 pm IST
Updated : Aug 9, 2020, 2:17 pm IST

Incumbent Alexander Lukashenko has made it clear he won’t hesitate to quash any protests against the results of Sunday’s election

 Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko casts his ballot at a polling station during the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus. (AP)
  Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko casts his ballot at a polling station during the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus. (AP)

Minsk: Belarusians are voting on whether to grant their authoritarian president a sixth term in office, following a campaign marked by unusually strong demonstrations by opposition supporters frustrated with the country’s stumbling economy, political repression and weak response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Incumbent Alexander Lukashenko, in office for 26 years, has made it clear he won’t hesitate to quash any attempt by his opponents to protest the results of Sunday’s election.

 

The head of staff for main opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was detained late Saturday for allegedly participating in authorized protests and is likely to be in jail until at least Monday. Tsikhanouskaya herself reportedly was so concerned about her own security that she left her residence to spend the night elsewhere.

Tsikhanouskaya, the wife of a jailed opposition blogger, became the main opposition candidate after two other prominent aspirants were denied places on the ballot. One of them was jailed and the other, a former ambassador to the United States, fled the country fearing imminent arrest.

As polls opened on Sunday, the country’s central elections commission said more than 40% of the electorate had cast ballots in early voting, a figure likely to heighten concerns about the results’ legitimacy because of the potential for manipulation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose assessments of elections are widely regarded as authoritative, was not invited to send an observer mission.

 

Tsikhanouskaya had crisscrossed the country, tapping public frustration with Lukashenko’s swaggering response to the pandemic and the country’s stagnating Soviet-style economy. One of her rallies in the capital Minsk attracted an estimated 60,000 people, an enormous turnout in the country where dissent is routinely suppressed.

Belarus, a country of 9.5 million people, has reported more than 68,500 confirmed coronavirus cases and 580 deaths in the pandemic. Critics have accused the authorities of manipulating the figures to downplay the death toll.

Lukashenko announced last month that he had been infected with the virus but had no COVID-19 symptoms and recovered quickly, allegedly thanks to doing sports. He defended his handling of the outbreak, saying that a lockdown would have doomed the nation’s weakened economy.

 

Belarus has sustained a severe economic blow after its leading exports customer, Russia, went into a pandemic-induced recession and other foreign markets shrank. Before the coronavirus, the country’s state-controlled economy already had been stalled for years, stoking public frustration.

Political observers say the election campaign also exposed divisions among the Belarusian elite as some of its members entered politics for the first time.

Belarusian authorities last week arrested 33 Russian military contractors and charged them with plans to stage “mass riots.” The political opposition and many independent observers saw the arrests as an attempt to shore up the incumbent’s sagging public support.

 

The arrest of the Russians marked an unprecedented spike in tensions between Belarus and Russia, which often have acrimonious disputes despite their close ties.

When Russia and Belarus signed a union agreement in 1996, Lukashenko aspired to use it as a vehicle to eventually lead a unified state as the successor to Russia’s ailing president, Boris Yeltsin. The tables turned after Vladimir Putin became Russian president in 2000, and the Belarusian leader began resisting what he saw as a Kremlin push for control over Belarus.

Tags: belarus election, alexander lukashenko, sviatlana tsikhanouskaya, belarus opposition leader