In Belarus, protests against President Alexander Lukashenko have been going on since the start of the presidential campaign in May and have escalated after his re-election, which was considered rigged, on 9 August. An unprecedented protest movement in many respects, as witnessed by Marina Adamovich, a political opponent, and Ivan, a resident of the eastern part of the country.
When the Belarusian presidential campaign began in May, Ivan, a resident of the eastern city of Mogilev, had no illusions: “We already knew the outcome of the election …” he assures. Alexander Lukashenko, president for 26 years already, would be re-elected. Since his arrival, “Europe’s last dictator” has left no chance for the opposition: the country’s media is under his control, demonstrations are suppressed, imprisoned political opponents.
And 2020 was no exception at this point. On May 9, Sergei Tikhanovsky, a blogger who ran for president, was arrested. He will be followed by Mikola Statkevich and Viktor Babaryko, two historic opponents of the president. The Belarusians are already coming out to protest against these arrests, which are considered arbitrary.
“An opposition to the woman’s face is something new in Belarus”
Then Sergei Tikhanovsky’s wife, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, decided to run in her place and was joined in her campaign team by two other women, Veronika Tsepkalo, wife of the exiled opponent ValeryTsepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova, head of the campaign team of opponent Viktor Babaryko before he was arrested . Ivana felt that something new was happening: “An opposition to the woman’s face is something new in Belarus,” he stressed, “especially when Lukashenko is constantly humiliating women. The country has changed.”
On August 9, 2020, Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected with 80% of the vote, compared to 9% for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. The demonstrations intensified after the announcement of the results, were considered rigged. Very quickly, the Belarusians were in the tens of thousands in the streets. Never had they been so many since the autocrat came to power.
Marina Adamovich, a political opponent, is also the wife of Mikola Statkevich, Lukashenko’s great rival for several years. One month after the results were announced, he is still behind bars.
She has been used for some time to see her husband imprisoned when he disturbs the president. “This is the fourth time they’ll lock him up,” she whispered. The demonstrations, she has also seen them pass. But she feels that today they are different. The demonstrators seemed to him more determined and organized: “What I see is that the people have a colossal desire for change. He woke up on his own. The demonstrators, despite the repression, take off their shoes before stepping on a bench. They clean the streets after the demonstrations. “They dress in white and hold out flowers. It’s a real explanation, a manifesto for change,” she analyzes.
A poor financial situation and a neglected Covid-19 pandemic
The people are used to the president’s strength, but during his first term, 26 years ago, Ivan recalls that his economic record appealed to him: “I think for ten years life has been better”, Today he trusts that in his Businesses must all combine a main job and a food job to find their account.
The coronavirus pandemic was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back. The autocrat went so far as to deny the existence of the virus, which for him was just a “psychosis” of the media. As a result, his government has not taken steps to limit it. The country was one of the few in Europe that did not apply containment. “The authorities did not support the population at all,” says Ivan, who was then independent.
Like him, Marinane does not believe that the situation will suddenly be blocked. But she is sure that a process has begun: “I do not know if he (Lukashenko) will leave tomorrow, it could take months. But in any case, I feel that the historic end of this era is near.”