The Politics of Belarus Explained and What We Need To Do

The+Politics+of+Belarus+Explained+and+What+We+Need+To+Do

Brandon Hwang, Managing Editor

Belarus’s president Alexander Lukashenko has faced the greatest opposition since his twenty-six years of presidency, and his methods of putting out the hearth of a fiery scene are only making tensions greater. 

There is a problem in Belarus  that the media fails to address and one that the international community, likewise, has made minimal effort to solve: Belarus’s humanitarian rights violations in a protest against the Lukashenko regime. 

Let’s rewind to the history of Belarus and the uncontested president, Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarus was in control of the Soviet Union until 1991. In order to drift away from the engraved communism of the Soviets, Belarusians embraced democracy and adopted with an established electoral system of a parliament, judicial courts, and the president. As Belarus’s first president, Alexander Lukashenko proclaimed that he would focus more on the common civilians rather than the corrupt elitists. The people’s faith was strong with Lukashenko. In 1994, Lukashenko successfully won the election to the presidency. 

However, Lukashenko derailed from his intended path of democracy towards an authoritarian regime, a situation similar to that of Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela. In 1995, Lukashenko convened a new parliamentary assembly consisting of only the old Parliament members who had explicitly and devoutly sworn their allegiance to Lukashenko. Additionally, the incumbent president removed ambassadors from their posts in western nations, blaming these foreign governments for conspiring against him. 

In 1996, the Belarusian government extended Lukashenko’s term for an additional two years. Russia may have meddled with the election due to favorable trades and negotiations with Lukashenko, which became the beginning of the corruption in Belarusian politics. Lukashenko continuously ran from 2006 to 2020 and the authoritarian claimed that anyone who would oppose him would his/her neck wrung “as one might a duck.”

The Belarusian people had been silent up to 2020, the year Lukashenko would find the gravest threats yet. The 2020 presidential election scene looked quite different than the years past: Lukashenko faced Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a strong, vigilant, independent guaranteeing civil liberties and reform to the Belarusian government; she was endorsed by other opposition leaders including Valery Tsepkalo and Viktar Babaryka. 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims that the election was a fraud and indeed many sources corroborate such a claim. Sviatlana would have received at least 60 percent of the vote, yet the official ballot announcement revealed that Lukashenko received 80.12 percent of the vote, a turnout never seen before yet suspicious due to the growing antagonisms against Lukashenko building up to the election. As Sviatlana fled to Lithuania in fear of imprisonment, extensive protests ravaged the Belarusian  cities. 

Lukashenko’s riot police, as any communist regime would have, and anti-terrorist “Almaz” elite forces used water cannons and rubber bullets to suppress protests. Amnesty International, the United Nations, and  nations have called for investigations into the Belarusian government after the alleged arrests of thousands of protestors, sexual assaults, and torture. Lukashenko installed many more police forces into the areas where continued reports of brutal acts of the police are being documented. 

Lukashenko fails to understand the true notion of a democracy and that human rights include the right to have a voice, a vote, and to engage in government without totalitarian forces posing a threat to expression. We see that history has long repeated itself with a brutal police force that echoes the Gestapo or the NKVD of the Soviet Union. We cannot let a new wave of illiberal democracy flow throughout our world. History reveals patterns and the trend of totalitarian regimes such as Venezuela, Myanmar, and Belarus pose great threats to our message of peace. 

What can we do now? 

If possible, the only way to truly influence the Belarusian government is for a summit with ambassadors/prime ministers/ or presidents of nation states with Lukashenko. The meeting should not be a reprimand of Lukashenko as this will lead to deteriorating relations and a lesser degree of compliance for Lukashenko to resign from his position. The summit should be formatted to understand the perspective of the Belarusian government and to try to identify if any forms of corruption is evident. 

Investigations should subsequently be carried out to determine if it was truly possible that Lukashenko won 80.12 percent of the national vote. Intelligence agencies have power. A collective union and emphasis of the U.N. to conduct investigations will lead to a better understanding of the situation. 

If there are repeated instances of human rights violations, the international community must intervene into Belarus. There have been accounts that if the protests continue, Russia will be involved and make arrangements with Lukashenko to supply military forces to shut down the protests. Once this act of deliberation occurs, the members of the Security Council will need to either sanction Belarus until the government complies, or troops from foreign actors in the Security Council should enter Belarus if Russia makes its presence. This situation is highly unlikely as it is the pathway to war, but if the scenario comes, the conflict must be addressed in this manner. The other nations will work to provide food and resources to Belarus during the economic effects of the sanction implementation. 

On the bright side of the turmoil, it seems likely that the Belarusian president will resign. Already he has resorted to Russia asking for a potential place of refuge. What we need to continue to do is build up pressure. By empowering workers all throughout Belarus, there is a possibility to engage in new methods of reform that can foster a new, liberal democracy. 

What we, the common people, need to do is support these protestors. We must find new ways to advocate for their heroic actions in defiance against the corrupt Belarusian regime. We need to show our commendation for the strikers and the leaders such as Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya with donations to organizations who can help the people and make a greater appeal for change. 

There’s so much to do. We cannot let Belarus become an unknown tale. If Belarus continues its role with Lukashenko as president, I fear a new iron curtain to approach.