Belarus as an Independent State Part II

The local elections in March 2014 were accompanied by repression and arrests of opposition politicians. The early release of human rights activist Ales Bjaljazki (* 1962), who was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in 2011, surprisingly took place in June 2014. In December 2014, Lukashenka ordered a new government to be formed and dismissed Prime Minister Mikhail Mjasnikowitsch (* 1950), who had been in office since 2010. His successor was Andrej Kabjakou (* 1960), the previous head of the presidential administration. In the run-up to the presidential election, Lukashenka pardonedsix imprisoned opposition politicians. Nonetheless, opponents of the regime and members of the opposition remained marginalized in the elections on October 11, 2015. According to the electoral commission, Lukashenka won 83.5% of the vote and thus received the mandate for a fifth term. The President’s camp also won the House of Representatives elections on 9/11/2016. Only two opposition politicians managed to enter the parliament. OSCE election observers complained that the legal framework for the electoral act led to significant restrictions on political rights and fundamental freedoms. Even though the elections were well organized, the observers noted numerous shortcomings in the electoral process.

In August 2018, Lukashenka replaced the heads of his government out of dissatisfaction with the economic development. The new Prime Minister was Sergei Rumas (* 1969).

The parliamentary election, which was brought forward by a presidential decree, took place on November 17, 2019 and strengthened A. Lukashenka’s position. The only two opposition politicians represented in the House of Representatives were eliminated. The 110 seats were won exclusively by approved candidates, 89 of whom were non-party members (60.3%) and 21 members of political parties loyal to the regime (19%). Opposition politicians and civil rights activists were not allowed to run for election because of alleged formal errors, even if they had collected the signatures required to run. Western observers considered the election to be not free and fair. The Belarusian civil society is increasingly politicizing its economic dependence on Russia, in particular the rise in Russian oil prices since the beginning of 2019 and dissatisfaction with the standard of living (»youth bloc«, »mothers 328«, street opposition).

After the presidential elections on August 9, 2020, the state election commission announced that Lukashenka had been re-elected with 80.2% of the vote. This has been questioned at home and abroad and has provoked demonstrations and bloody riots in several Belarusian cities. The opposition candidate Svetlana Tichanowskaja (* 1982) received 9.9% of the vote according to official figures and announced that she would not accept the result. A few days after the election Tichanovskaya left the country. In a video message, she announced that she had made this decision herself, which international media questioned. On September 17, 2020, the EU Parliament voted in favor of sanctions against those responsible for election rigging and obstructing peaceful demonstrations in Belarus. The MPs indirectly recognized Tichanovskaya as the representative of their country until further notice. On the same day, Lukashenka announced that it would close the borders with Poland and Lithuania and protect the border with Ukraine more comprehensively. At the same time he announced that he would extend the joint Belarusian-Russian military maneuver on the border with the EU, which was seen as a reaction to Lithuanian and Ukrainian military exercises with the participation of NATO.

Foreign policy

In foreign policy, Lukashenka maintained close cooperation with Russia (formal establishment of a Russian-Belarusian “Community of Sovereign Republics” on April 2, 1996, signing of union treaties on December 2, 1997 and December 8, 1999); accompanied by temporary controversies between Lukashenka and Russian President Vladimir Putin Both agreed on the rapid realization of a future “Union state of Belarus and Russia”; But the implementation (constitutional act, establishment of a unified economic area with the Russian ruble as a common currency) was delayed, not least because of the different potentials and ambitions of the two states (Belarus striving for equal partnership compared to Russia’s intention to gain greater control over Belarus). In the period that followed, there were repeated controversies with Russia (e.g. over Russian energy supplies). On January 1st, 2010, a customs union between the two countries came into force. In November 2011, Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus decided the establishment of a common Eurasian economic area. On January 1, 2015, the three countries formed the Eurasian Economic Union.

According to relationshipsplus, the crisis surrounding the Minsk diplomatic settlement “Drosdy” (the Belarusian government’s request to diplomats to leave it) led to Japan in the summer of 1998 on the part of the EU states, as well as the USA and Poland to the temporary withdrawal of its ambassadors and to an extensive foreign policy isolation from Belarus; this persisted even after the Belarusian government gave in in December 1998 (2001–03 expulsion of the Belarusian delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly; mainly because of the violation of fundamental democratic rights in Belarus 2002–03 and 2006 sanctions against its leadership). Since 2004, surrounded to the north and west by new EU member states and bordering Ukraine, which is under new pro-Western leadership in the south, the Belarusian government has intensified the self-isolation of the country (including in August 2005 a ban on accepting foreign aid without state approval).

In 2009, however, Belarus was included in the EU’s “Eastern Partnership”. After the regime – v. a. After the 2010 presidential election – the repression against the opposition had intensified, relations with the EU deteriorated again. In coordination with the USA, the EU foreign ministers decided on January 31, 2011, to ban people who had participated in repression and to freeze their assets. The sanctions were lifted in the spring of 2016 after A. Lukashenka released political prisoners.

Belarus as an Independent State 2

About the author