Belarusian opposition candidate Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya rejected on Monday official election results handing President Alexander Lukashenko a landslide victory, saying the vote was rigged and that protests that turned bloody on Sunday would continue.
The central election commission had earlier said Lukashenko won 80 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s election, while Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who emerged from obscurity to become his main rival, took just 9.9 per cent.
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Opposition in Belarus says Lukashenko's re-election win was rigged …
Belarus (; Belarusian: Беларусь, IPA: [bʲɛlaˈrusʲ]), officially the Republic of Belarus (Belarusian: Рэспубліка Беларусь, Russian: Республика Беларусь), also known in English by its Russian name Byelorussia or Belorussia (Russian: Белоруссия), is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested. Its major economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing. Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including the Principality of Polotsk (11th to 14th centuries), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.
In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, different states arose competing for legitimacy amidst the Civil War, ultimately ending in the rise of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Byelorussian SSR) which became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union in 1922. Belarus lost almost half of its territory to Poland after the Polish–Soviet War (1919–1921). Much of the borders of Belarus took their modern shape in 1939, when some lands of the Second Polish Republic were reintegrated into it after the Soviet invasion of Poland, and were finalized after World War II. During WWII, military operations devastated Belarus, which lost about a quarter of its population and half of its economic resources. The republic was redeveloped in the post-war years. In 1945 the Byelorussian SSR became a founding member of the United Nations, along with the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR. The parliament of the republic proclaimed the sovereignty of Belarus on 27 July 1990, and during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on 25 August 1991. In 2000, Belarus and Russia signed a treaty for greater cooperation, forming the Union State.
Alexander Lukashenko has served as the country’s first president since 1994. Belarus has been labeled “Europe’s last dictatorship” by some Western journalists, on account of the country’s poor human rights record and Lukashenko’s self-described authoritarian style of government. Lukashenko continued a number of Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of large sections of the economy. Elections under Lukashenko’s rule have been widely criticized as unfair; and according to many countries and organizations, political opposition has been violently suppressed. Belarus is also the only country in Europe officially using the death penalty. Belarus’s Democracy Index rating is the lowest in Europe, the country is labelled as “not free” by Freedom House, as “repressed” in the Index of Economic Freedom, and is rated as the worst country for press freedom in Europe in the 2013–14 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, which ranks Belarus 157th out of 180 nations.Over 70% of Belarus’s population of 9.49 million resides in urban areas. More than 80% of the population is ethnic Belarusian, with sizable minorities of Russians, Poles and Ukrainians. Since a referendum in 1995, the country has had two official languages: Belarusian and Russian. The Constitution of Belarus does not declare any official religion, although the primary religion in the country is Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The second-most widespread religion, Roman Catholicism, has a much smaller following; nevertheless, Belarus celebrates both Orthodox and Catholic versions of Christmas and Easter as national holidays. Belarus is a member of the United Nations since its founding, the Commonwealth of Independent States, CSTO, EEU, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Belarus has shown no aspirations for joining the European Union but nevertheless maintains a bilateral relationship with the Union, and likewise participates in two EU projects: the Eastern Partnership and the Baku Initiative.
Foreign observers have not judged an election to be free and fair in Belarus since 1995, and the run-up to the vote saw authorities jail Lukashenko’s rivals and open criminal investigations into others who voiced opposition.
The streets were quiet in the capital Minsk and other cities after violence on Sunday night, when riot police used force to try to disperse thousands of protesters who gathered after polls closed to denounce what they said were illegitimate elections.
Opposition in Belarus says Lukashenko's re-election win was rigged …
Tsikhanouskaya, who entered the race after her blogger husband, who intended to run, was jailed, told reporters in Minsk that she considered herself the election winner. She said the election had been massively rigged.
Her aides said the opposition wanted a vote recount at polling stations where there were problems. They also said the opposition wanted to hold talks with authorities about how to bring about a peaceful change of power.
There was no immediate response to that offer from Lukashenko.
A former Soviet collective farm manager, Lukashenko has ruled the country since 1994, but is facing his biggest challenge in years to keep his grip on power amid disenchantment in some quarters over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy and his human rights record.
Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign rallies drew some of the biggest crowds since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Russia’s RIA news agency cited the Belarusian Interior Ministry as saying on Monday that police had detained around 3,000 people at Sunday’s post-election protests.
Lukashenko’s attempts to crack down on protests could hurt his wider effort to mend fences with the West amid fraying ties with traditional ally Russia, which has tried to press Belarus into closer economic and political union.
Neighbouring Poland said its Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had called for a special European Union summit on Belarus. The Polish Foreign Ministry condemned the violence and appealed to the Belarusian authorities “to start respecting fundamental human rights.”
German foreign minister Heiko Maas said on Monday the EU must discuss sanctions against Belarus.
“We must now discuss in the EU whether this still applies in the light of the past week and the past days,” he added, echoing comments from Poland.
Maas’s ministry earlier said there were numerous indications of fraud in the election.
Rights groups say more than 1,300 people were also detained in the crackdown ahead of the election, including independent election observers and members of Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign team.
After casting his vote on Sunday, Lukashenko denied imposing repressive measures as “fake news or far-fetched accusations.”