|Belarus Protests. Do they have a positive future?|
by Rene Wadlow
The fast-moving political situation in Belarus needs to be watched closely. Non-violent actions for fair elections and freedom of expression have been met by police and military repression. On 9 August 2020, Alexandr Sashenka who came to power in 1994 during the breakup of the USSR has claimed to have won the election for president with 80 percent of the vote against 10 percent for his primary opponent, Svetlana Tsikhanouskaia, a 37 year old housewife whose husband is in prison for political reasons and so could not be a candidate. Many doubt the validity of these results. Popular protests began almost immediately after the results were announced.
As had been the case with the 2010 election followed by active protests, the anti-riot police and the military carried out extensive arrests and repression with the wide range of weapons that the anti-riot police have. Many of those held in detention have been badly treated and some tortured.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has reacted strongly to the repression as has Josep Borrell, the European Union chief of diplomacy. It is difficult to know what impact external condemnation can have on the situatiion. Strong concern needs to be voiced by non-governmental organizations in support for the many non-violent activists protesting in the streets through much of the country.
For the moment, Vladimir Poutine and the Russian administration are watching the situation closely as Russian and Belorussian economic and social ties are close. By and large, the Belorussian population is favorable to good relations with Russia but want to remain a separate State.
"Change" which is the cry of many of the protesters will, no doubt, have to come from within the country. More and more people are joining in the protests using a host of creative non-violent techniques. Much of the visible leadership is done by women who march in front with flowers in their hands. There are plans for strikes in key industries. For the moment, the protests have not produced new political leadership. Under severe threats, Svetlana Tsikhanovskaia has taken refuge in Lithuania. The security forces seem to continue to back President Loukachenko, but other civil servants have resigned as part of the protests.
The socio-political atmosphere seems to be moving rapidly. We are unlikely to see the month-long protests that took place in other countries such as Ukraine. Thus our need to observe closely now.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens