Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus, is known as “Europe’s last dictator”. After declaring a landslide victory last night, protesters have clashed with riot police contesting the 80% majority Mr. Lukashenko is purported to have secured in the “rigged” election. By Michael Delaney.
What’s the background?
President Lukashenko was first elected in 1994.
During the last election, in 2015, he was again declared winner with 83.5% of the vote. At the time, there were no serious challengers and election observers reported problems in the counting and tabulation of votes.
This year’s election is being held amid growing signs of frustration at his leadership.
Who was his opposition this year?
The President’s challenger is Svetlana Tikhanovskaya; a 37-year-old teacher who became a stay-at-home mother.
She was thrust into the political spotlight after her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for the vote. Ms Tikhanovskaya stepped in to take his place.
According to the Human Rights Centre Viasna, more than 2,000 people have been detained since the start of the campaign in Spring. But this still didn’t deter huge crowds from attending a demonstration for the opposition in Minsk last month.
President Lukashenko has dismissed Ms Tikhanovskaya as a “poor little girl”, manipulated by foreign “puppet masters”.
The Election Result
According to the exit polls, Mr. Lukashenko is predicted to win the election with a 80% majority, with Ms. Tikhanovskaya, his nearest rival, bringing in just under 10% of the total vote. Some reports are suggesting Ms Tikhanovskaya may even have secured as much as 90% of the vote.
However, the reaction in Belarus tells a different story as protesters clash with riot police, who have used stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowds.
Last night, Ms Tikhanovskaya told reporters: ”I believe my eyes, and I see that the majority is with us.”