Thing will never be the same in this Eastern European country. The new re-election of Aleksandr Lukashenko has come at a very high political cost and a massive and generalized popular repudiation of the dictator.
By Rubén Tzanoff
On Sunday night, August 9, the official results of the presidential elections in the Republic of Belarus were announced. The dictatorial regime assigned Lukashenko 80.23% of the votes. In his sixth presidential run in 26 years, he has done the same old thing: he has re-elected himself as president.
The elections were fraudulent. The Central Election Commission blocked the presentation of several opposition candidates, including the banker Viktar Babaryka and the blogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski, who were imprisoned on criminal charges to prevent them from competing. Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, Tsikhanouski’s wife, took up the fight and with popular support managed to become a candidate. According to Lukashenko, society was not “mature enough to vote for a woman”, as it needed “strong power”. The 9.9% of the votes that the regime assigned to Tikhanouskaya, does not correspond to the broad support that she received in her presidential bid nor with the high percentages (over 70%) that could be seen in those voting stations that escaped government control.
During the campaign, the activists were persecuted by the KGB, rallies were repressed and hundreds of people were imprisoned. Independent observers were denied access to electoral sections during voting days. It is no coincidence that countless fraud complaints have previously been made with warnings about the regime’s refusal to acknowledge any other result than Lukashenko’s victory.
The people and the working class say Enough!
As soon as the results were known, there was an explosion of popular outrage. There were demonstrations and clashes for almost six hours in the streets of Minsk, Brest, Gomel, Grodno and Vitebsk, among others. Some factories, as the large Minsk metallurgical company, went on strike. Neither the threats nor the closed Metro could prevent thousands of people from expressing their discontent. The police suppressed the protests with fire hydrants, tear gas, batons and rubber bullets. According to the complaints of the human rights NGO Vesná and Spring 96, one person was killed by a police vehicle and there is information that indicates that more people have been killed. There are more than 120 detainees, who could be given sentences that range from 8 to 15 years in prison, accused of “massive disorder and violence against police officers.” The regime has also blocked communications and access to the Internet. However, the bottom line is that Belarus has been going through the most important struggles since the spring of 1991, when power was shaken by a month of strikes. This how they have gotten back on the path to get rid of the bureaucratic and authoritarian government.
Although the workers have participated individually in the process, the call for a general strike has been under debate for the first time in a long time, by independent unionism. And it terrorized both the government and parts of the opposition, who did not lift a finger to make it happen. Such a process has given impetus to strategic debates, of which we are a part, on the need to build a workers’ party, independent of the bureaucracy and the opposition sectors of the bourgeoisie.
Beyond the differences, the people have gotten in tune with the Black rebellion in the United States, with the Lebanese people, with the demands for freedom and social rights, in the face of the terrible management of the pandemic, in this case due to Lukashenko’s denialism. From the International Socialist League, as an active part of the struggle, we repudiate the violent state repression, we demand an end to the persecutions, the annulment of the criminal prosecution of protesters, the investigation and the punishment of the murderers of protesters. We demand the immediate freedom of political prisoners and democratic activists. We call on the peoples to speak out for democratic freedoms in Belarus. The triumph will be much closer if the rebellion led by the youth and women, decisively connects with the working class, if the general strike, mobilization and strong methods of struggle are imposed. We are going to continue the campaign of solidarity with the Belarusian people that we have been carrying out and we call on the peoples of the world to express themselves in the same way.