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US State Department condemns 'sham parliamentary elections' in Belarus

by Martin Fornusek February 26, 2024 8:59 AM 2 min read
Belarus' dictator Alexander Lukashenko speaks as he meets with foreign media at his residence, the Independence Palace, in the capital Minsk on July 6, 2023. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)
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U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Feb. 25 denounced the parliamentary elections held in Belarus the same day, calling them a sham.

"Impossible to hold free and fair elections in a climate of fear and with 1,400+ political prisoners," Miller said on the social media platform X.

Belarus opened polling stations for both the parliamentary and local elections on Feb. 25 amid condemnations from the Belarusian democratic opposition. The country is ruled by dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who uses rigged elections to solidify his regime rather than to provide a chance for actual democratic competition.

Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya asked Belarusians "to boycott this senseless farce" in a video broadcast that activists showed in public spaces in Belarus after accessing screens used for advertising.

Only four parties were allowed to run, all of which are supportive of Lukashenko's regime: Belaya Rus, the Communist Party of Belarus (CPB), the Republican Party of Labour and Justice (RPTS), and the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus (LDPB).

There were no actual opposition candidates on the ballot, and about a dozen parties were denied registration last year.

Belarus Weekly: Tsikhanouskaya urges democracies to ‘show their teeth’ after Navalny’s death
Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urged democracies to “show their teeth” after the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a Russian prison. The same week, a fifth Belarusian political prisoner died in custody. Meanwhile, early balloting for parliamentary election…

The polls closed at 8 p.m. local time on Feb. 25, with the country's Central Election Commission claiming a 73% turnout. The complete results are to be announced later on Feb. 26.

"Heartfelt thanks to all our friends & allies who heeded our call today to denounce the regime's sham elections. This circus will not transform a dictator into a democrat," Tsikhanouskaya said on the social media platform X.

After casting a vote in the elections on Feb. 25, Lukashenko announced his intention to run for his seventh term in the 2025 presidential election. The Belarusian dictator has been in power since 1994, cementing his rule through falsified votes and a violent crackdown against the opposition.

Free media and civil society are stifled in the country, and the population faces surveillance and arbitrary arrests. The Belarusian human rights group Viasna said that there are about 1,430 political prisoners held in Belarus, many of whom face beatings and torture during their detention.

Lukashenko claimed victory in the 2020 presidential election that was broadly denounced as rigged in his favor. It was followed by mass protests across the country, which were brutally suppressed by authorities. Tsikhanouskaya, who leads Belarusian democratic forces in exile, said she won 60% of the vote.

The Belarusian dictator is also a close ally of Russia and has backed Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, providing Belarusian territory as a staging area for Russian invasion troops in 2022. Russia has also been using Belarus to launch missiles against Ukraine.

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