Updated at 22:16,14-07-2020

Presidential election in Belarus: Key similarities between 2020 and 2015

MIKHAS ILYIN, Euroradio

Presidential election in Belarus: Key similarities between 2020 and 2015
At a polling station in Belarus / euroradio.fm
In 2020, Belarus will have a short-spelled but interesting election campaign. Last week, Euroradio wrote about how it would differ from the previous presidential election in 2015. Today, we have tried to spot the key similarities between the two elections.

Belarusians are not into politics





In the last five years, Belarusians have not become more interested in politics. They also don't believe that much more than something in the country can be changed by political methods. The low turnout at the parliamentary elections in autumn 2019 is a clear confirmation of this. Some outbursts like the protest of "non-parasites" in 2017 separate instances.

"The main problem for the opposition is that for many years the regime has marginalized it and it has difficulty reaching the masses, which are mainly depoliticized. For many years, the authorities have ground down the protests, used repression, and discouraged Belarusians from engaging in politics. These factors worked against the opposition in 2015, they are still working now, but now there is 'corona'," says Valer Karbalevich.

The game rules are still the same




Lidziya Yarmoshyna


The political system of Belarus and the election scenario have changed insignificantly. Officials changed their posts, some of them left politics. But both the Prime Minister and the head of the Presidential Administration, as well as the House of Representatives (which again has no deputies from the systemic opposition) have been and remain nothing more than a background for Aliaksandr Lukashenka.

The Chairperson of the Central Election Commission Lidziya Yarmoshyna is also in her place. In between elections she managed to make a statement that it would be good to reduce the number of signatures, which a presidential candidate has to collect. But it wasn't done, just like no changes have been introduced into the election legislation, which the democratic opposition had insisted on.

The parliamentary campaign of 2019 showed that nothing fundamentally has changed in terms of how elections are organized in Belarus. And the fact that Lukashenka is once again participating in elections makes the chance for any other candidate to win illusory. After learning that the current head of Belarus is running again in 2020, former deputy Alena Anisim refused from the already voiced plans to run for office.

Relations with the West


Presidential election in Belarus: Key similarities between 2020 and 2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of Belarus Aliaksandr Lukashenka / BelTA


Before the election of 2015, Lukashenka took certain steps to improve relations with the West: he released political prisoners and distanced himself from Moscow on the "Ukrainian issue." He took a neutral stance and positioned Belarus as the main peacemaker of Europe.

"This helped him to get away from the image of "Europe's last dictator," which the Westerners had already transferred to Putin. At that time, external factors were favorable for Lukashenka. Russia got involved in the Crimea and Donbas entanglement, so it was not up to Lukashenka," says political observer Aliaksandr Klaskouski. "In the current situation, of course, the West is surprised by any subbotniks, parades, but these surprises will not turn into some active actions against Lukashenka.

Relations with Russia



Vladimir Putin and Aliaksandr Lukashenka in a parked Soviet car / BelT


The Kremlin's trend of not taking interest in Belarusian elections will remain like it was in 2015.

"With coronavirus and decreased oil prices, Russia will not care much about Lukashenka, even though he has been casting a shadow at the Kremlin in recent months. I think that by sending out a correspondent and the parade, he also offended Putin," continues Klaskouski. "One would think that all this would push Moscow to step on Lukashenka's toes, but their heads are now occupied by other things. Putin has to think about how to complete the constitutional reform."

Of course, Moscow is annoyed with Lukashenka, they do not like him. On the other hand, they are used to him, they know he will not cross some red lines. They may film another "Godfather", as it was in 2010, but nothing more."

Political analyst Valer Karbalevich believes that due to the conflict with Russia, Lukashenka will focus on sovereignty and independence. He does not think that the entire campaign will be based on the image of the enemy in the face of Russia, though.

"It is unlikely that Russia will try somehow to play seriously in this election campaign, nominating its candidate. There are several reasons for that: firstly, there are no real elections, so there is no special sense in putting up a candidate and spending money; secondly, I do not think that now Russia has a task to remove Lukashenka from power during these elections, because instead of Lukashenka there may come a leader who may distance him/herself even more from Russia. But some game is possible only to troll Lukashenka."

The candidate has a female face



Hanna Kanapatskaya


Hanna Kanapatskaya, ex-Deputy of the House of Representatives and former member of the United Civil Party, announced her intention to run for the presidency on May 12th. If her initiative group is registered and can collect the necessary number of signatures for the nomination, it means that we will have a female presidential candidate again.

In 2015, the first woman who fought against Lukashenka in the elections was Tatsiana Karatkevich from Tell the Truth. According to the CEC, only 4.42% of the voters supported her, but nevertheless she managed to outrun Siarhey Haidukevich of the LDPB and the cossack-candidate for presidency Mikalai Ulakhovich.

Most likely, we will see not only Lukashenka's surname but also that of Haidukevich in the ballots. After three presidential campaigns, Siarhey Haidukevich was replaced by his son Aleh. Last year he headed the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus instead of his father. And this year will be his first presidential election campaign.

More emotional than Haidukevich senior, the former police chief calls himself "real opposition". He doesn't pull punches while criticizing his colleagues from the "traditional" camp. During the campaign, one should expect big statements from Haidukevich against his opponents. Except, of course, the candidate with the last name of Lukashenka.