Europe’s Last Dictator

Alexander Lukashenko has become the president of Belarus for the fifth time after the widely predicted victory in the presidential elections in October. The 61-year-old president received 83.5% of the votes, while Tatiana Korotkevich, his rival, stopped at only 4.4%. Belarus, one of the poorest countries in Europe, declared its sovereignty in 1990 after the

Alexander LukashenkoAlexander Lukashenko has become the president of Belarus for the fifth time after the widely predicted victory in the presidential elections in October. The 61-year-old president received 83.5% of the votes, while Tatiana Korotkevich, his rival, stopped at only 4.4%.

Belarus, one of the poorest countries in Europe, declared its sovereignty in 1990 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Lukashenko at that time, had a reputation as a strong politician against corruption and was elected for the first time in 1994. He adopted a “Soviet-era” policy, with a lot of state intervention in the economy and changed the small Republic of Belarus into his own dictatorship. It was labelled “One of the outposts of tyranny” by the US government. After 1994 Lukashenko never lost his power: he won all the elections, being the president for more than 20 years. Nowadays, nothing has changed.
In the past 20 years, Lukashenko has been accused of human rights violations and persecution of minorities, independent journalists and opponents. “They will have their necks wrung as one might a duck” he threatened opposition candidates during the elections in 2006. OSCE accused Belarus for failing to conduct democratic elections, but Lukashenko still gained more than 80% of the votes. For the last election he organised the polls calling one third of the population to vote 5 days before the official election day in order to have more time to cheat. The opponents asked people to boycott, but no one listened to them.

Nothing (such as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine) has ever happened in Belarus for three reasons. First of all, there’s a great control of the authorities: in 2010, seven of the nine presidential candidate were arrested for “attempting to overthrow the state” and “encouragement of violent protests”. The other two ones were beaten by police along with hundreds of protesters.
Second, and most important, there is no alternative for Belarus. People know that Lukashenko is the only one who can avoid all that happened in Ukraine or Georgia (Rose Revolution of 2003), they prefer Lukashenko to a civil war and this is why the president of Belarus won without even campaigning.
A third reason can be found in the opponents. They are few, disorganized and not able to work together, thus having the support of only a minority.

Despite being a poor country the EU, US and Russia look at Belarus for its important role in international relations. Putin called Lukashenko and congratulated him for his “convincing victory”. However, Lukashenko recently refused a Russian airbase on his territory to oppose Nato’s eastward advance: he said it would not have solved any problems or reduced military tension in Ukraine.
That’s why also US and EU are trying to improve their relations with Belarus. Sanctions were imposed by the EU such as an asset freeze and a travel ban on Lukashenko, but they may now consider to suspend them, after he released six political prisoners in August.

And so all the violations and persecutions of Lukashenko are overshadowed and the world leaders still meet and discuss issues with Europe’s last dictator.

Sources:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/11/alexander-lukashenko-expected-to-remain-as-belarusian-president http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/13/the-guardian-view-on-europe-and-belarus-engage-without-illusion http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34674183 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/profiles/3080936/Alexander-Lukashenko-Dictator-with-a-difference.html

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