On Tuesday, August 25 at 19:30 GMT:
Demonstrations against Belarus’s president show little sign of abating as people across the country dispute a recent election result and urge him to resign.
Aleksandr Lukashenko is now facing the most intense popular opposition to his rule since he came to power in 1994. Lukashenko claimed 80 percent of votes cast in the election on August 9, with officials putting his nearest challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on 10 percent. Tikhanovskaya, who ran as the main opposition candidate after her husband was barred from running in the election and who was later jailed, says that she took 60 to 70 percent of votes in some districts and that the official results are fraudulent.
Security forces responded with a heavy hand against initial protests, arresting 7,000 people in the days following the election. Two protesters were killed and hundreds wounded in the crackdown. Yet pro-opposition rallies have continued, including one attended by thousands of people in Minsk on Sunday. Women have been at the forefront of protests urging Lukashenko to step down.
Lukashenko says he is open to exploring constitutional changes but refuses to step down immediately. Meanwhile, Tikhanovskaya is sheltering in neighbouring Lithuania, where she fled to safety amid the security clampdown. She has pledged to act as an interim president who will release political prisoners and then organise free and fair elections within six months.
As tensions rise in Belarus, regional powers are trying to exert their influence. The EU has dismissed the election result and is preparing sanctions against high-ranking Belarusian individuals, while Lukashenko says Russia stands ready to “ensure security” – despite earlier accusing Russia of trying to discredit him in the run-up to the election. On Saturday, Lukashenko told supporters gathered in the town of Grodno that Nato forces are building up along Belarus’s western border, a statement dismissed as “baseless” by a Nato spokesperson.
The Stream will look at what lies ahead for the people of Belarus as its leader faces the sternest test of his 26-year rule. Join the conversation.
On this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Hanna Baraban, @anyabarabashka
Journalist and international security analyst
Source: Al Jazeera