Thousands of Belarusians took to the streets to revolt after the country’s Central Election Commission announced that Alexander Lukashenko had won with 80.23% of the presidential election vote on Sunday. Around 3,000 people have already been detained and dozens injured during clashes with police.
With that in mind, we must remember an important fact: Lukashenko’s dictatorship which rests on power abuse, violence, and propaganda is simply not fit for the Belarus of today, a society of freedom and democracy-loving individuals committed to democracy.
The protests in Belarus remind me of the 2014 Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine when thousands of Ukrainians came together to speak up against Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russia agenda. Yanukovych deployed the police and passed draconian safety laws in desperate attempts to protect himself. Over 100 innocent people died at the hand of police officers, but in the end, Yanukovych’s ideology of force lost and he had to flee Ukraine.
Belarus like Ukraine is a former Soviet republic, and throwing off the chains of the past has been an uphill battle. Dictators like Lukashenko tend to hold onto power till the end, but the last election became a tipping point, especially because it’s been almost 31 years since the USSR fell apart.
Many of the new generation of Belarusians, born in independent Belarus, are well travelled. Some have studied and lived in liberal democracies and know that democracy and the rule of law are key. They’ve become famous filmmakers and journalists to tell the world about their country, and, unfortunately, many of them had to find their home elsewhere in fear for their lives. Those who stayed became an easy target for the police.
Belarus is often called the last dictatorship of Europe, and rightfully so. But dictators are often politicians of the moment who mistakenly assume they can get away with their poisonous politics.
Lukashenko did everything to destroy the Belarusian identity, to wipe out democracy in its every form, and to make Belarusians feel like he is their only option. Though he sought to eradicate Belarusian identity, it has become stronger, and the people protesting against him will lead to his demise. Nothing lasts forever, and there’s no place for Lukashenko in modern Belarus.