The ruler Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for 26 years. He wants to be re-elected in the presidential election at the weekend and is cracking down on political opponents. However, this has strengthened the opposition. Shortly before the election, Lukashenko’s fiercest challenger has now called on Germany to help ensure a fair vote.
“Ms. Merkel, get in touch with Lukashenko. Tell him that we don’t want a war,” said Svetlana Tichanowskaya in an appeal to Chancellor Angela Merkel. The 37-year-old candidate told the newspaper “Bild”: “All we want are fair elections.” Her country is fed up with being ruled by “this dictator”, she said. “We are tired.”
Lukashenko wants to be elected for a sixth term on Sunday. He has been ruling the ex-Soviet republic located between Russia and Poland for a good two and a half decades with a hard hand. As in previous years, he took action against critics in the election campaign. Hundreds of arrests were made during demonstrations. The 65-year-old is considered the “last dictator” in Europe. The death penalty is still being carried out in Belarus.
Tichanovskaya was the only opposition member to be allowed to vote. She admitted that she was afraid of Lukashenko. “I see what he is willing to do to stay in power. I am afraid if I go out on the streets, if I stand on the podium,” said the wife of the imprisoned popular blogger Sergei Tichanovsky. “Fear is a constant companion.” If it wins, it wants to release all political prisoners and call new elections.
In a speech on Tuesday, the president again warned of coup attempts in his country and called himself a guarantor of stability among voters. In the evening, according to the state agency Belta, he called on the security forces to ensure “law and order” during the vote: “You should react immediately and harshly to threats, insults and other violence.”
Tichanovskaya accused Lukashenko of “desolating” the ex-Soviet republic. Belarus has become a country in which a “citizen has to decide whether to buy a piece of bread or a carton of milk or a medicine”. The masses are poor. The head of state had previously promised reforms: “If society needs changes, they will be made.” All reforms should begin with changes to the constitution, he said – “not with street actions, but with the Basic Law”.