Belarus: Unreal Elections and Their Very Real Effects
Elections in Belarus do not typically leave much room for surprise. In the fully-fledged autocracy that the country has become since the 1994 ascent to power of Alexander Lukashenka, no ballot has been left to chance. Instead, votes have followed an ever-more refined script that is aimed exclusively at affirming the rule of the country’s strongman and the vertical of power, on which his reign rests. This electoral parody, naturally, has been regularly decried as neither free nor fair by domestic and international monitors. And it has only been consequent that Western leaders and institutions have long denied the “elected” Belarusian leadership the recognition that comes with a democratic mandate.
This rather steadfast position is beginning to wither, however, not least in the wake of the latest parliamentary election in Belarus. When polls closed on September 11th, a widely unexpected result was announced: for the first time in over a decade, two opposition-minded candidates were included among the 110 members of the House of Representatives. This generous appointment of two independents to the obedient parliament is clearly not the result of a sudden breeze of democracy in Belarus, as observers found this latest election barely improved over previous ones. Instead, this is yet another shrewd move by Lukashenka, designed to deceive the domestic public no less than the international community. Chances are that he will once again succeed.