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“Europe’s last dictatorship” faces protests over election results

By Breanna Lu and Manasa Sriraj Oct. 19, 2020

In Belarus, anti-government protests and chaos preceded the announcement of Alexander Lukashenko’s victory, who will now be serving his sixth term in a row as president. According to election results, Lukashenko won 80 percent of the popular vote, while his opponent, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, won only 10 percent. Running in place of her husband, who was jailed in May, Tikhanovskaya fled the country over fears of her safety and

Quincy Han Art pressure from Lukashenko’s

government, speculated by an early scripted video. Despite her escape to Lithuania, many citizens have argued that the election results were not an accurate representation of the people, prompting Belarusians to protest for a better democracy.

Lukashenko, who came from humble origins, was hailed as a savior when he first became president in 1994, according to the New York Times. He promised to establish a democracy and free all Belarusians from Soviet and elitist oppression, garnering the support of the population. However, since taking office, international observers have condemned subsequent elections as neither being free or fair in the post-Soviet state as a result of Lukashenko’s gradually authoritarian rule.

“Belarus claims to be a democratic republic but judging by the public outcry, Lukashenko was definitely not a popular choice. The fact that Tikhanovskaya had to flee the country after losing the election shows how it has no longer become safe for her to stay because there have been so many instances where people are exiled or incarcerated for speaking out against an oppressive leader like Lukashenko,” Sophomore Vanessa Qu said.

Though several reporters claim the protests started off peaceful, they quickly became violent. Protesters and police clashed over the course of a week, with the police killing at least two people, injuring hundreds and arresting over 6,000 people while using aggressive measures such as stun grenades and water cannons. Journalists have been detained and opposition leaders and critics have gone missing, including all of the opposition’s Coordination Council members. As of Oct. 5, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reports that over 300 people have been detained.

Many countries have voiced their support in favor of the protesters, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Poland and Sweden, doubting the authenticity of the election results and agreeing that the citizens should be allowed to protest. With the support of these foreign countries, nearly 100,000 Belarusian protesters have gathered weekly near the presidential residence and have called for Lukashenko to step down.

On Aug. 30, the European Union (EU) announced that the elections will be held again under the supervision of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); the original elections did not fulfill the international standards for voting, which require impartiality and transparency. The EU will also sanction approximately 20 Belarusian officials and plans on continuing to do so until the government respects Belarusians’ human rights. However, Russia, Belarus’s on-and-off ally, plays a key role in the matter. Columbia Broadcasting Service (CBS) reported that on Aug. 27, President Putin announced that Russia has a military regiment ready to aid Lukashenko if absolutely needed. However, the EU is also reportedly depending on Putin to convince Lukashenko to allow the OSCE to mediate the reelection.

Aside from alleged election fraud, Lukashenko’s dismissive mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic has also been a factor in his regime’s widespread disapproval. Due to his rejection lockdowns, many migrant workers have been forced to return to Belarus in order to care for their families as businesses across Europe shut down, resulting in the loss of their jobs. Additionally, under Lukashenko’s presidency, Belarus’s economy is expected to decline by four percent and remain weak in the coming years, as stated by The World Bank. The protests have also brought the country’s financial system to a halt, as many businesses and workers are going on strike.

Despite the overwhelming backlash against his presidency, Lukashenko has expressed no intention of stepping down from office. As Belarusians wait for reelection, however, they continue to protest for democracy. “The protests are a sign of hope for Belarusian citizens. Although thousands of people are being detained and violently suppressed by authorities, it is the start of a movement to end dictatorship once and for all,” Freshman Sandhya Ram said.


About the Contributors

Breanna Lu

Staff Writer

Breanna Lu is a freshman and a new staff writer. She enjoys binge watching sci-fi movies and her favorite book genre is murder mysteries/crime fiction. In her free time, you will most likely find her asleep or chatting with her friends.

Manasa Sriraj

Staff Writer

Manasa Sriraj is a freshman at Leland High School and a staff writer. She is a STEM, puzzle, and geography freak and loves torturing her friends by spamming and "Rickrolling" on group chats. Her hobbies include listening to music, playing basketball and the guitar, experimenting with snack recipes (which usually result in messes), and building Rube Goldberg machines and gadgets out of Legos and other regular household objects.

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