Europe’s “last dictator” isn’t quitting anytime soon

8th August 2020

8th August 2020

Europe’s last dictator: Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus

If you thought Europe remains the torchbearer of “people’s liberty and freedom of expression,” think again. You haven’t accounted for Europe’s “last dictator” still in the saddle.

Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the iron-fisted president of Belarus, has been in power for 26 years, blaming the opposite camps of West and Russia as it suits him but his biggest test is this Sunday in a presidential election as he is now seen talking rubbish from both sides of his mouth.

Yet there is little doubt that Lukashenko, now 65, would win again. Only, there has never been a bigger protest in Belarus than what has been going on in recent times.

And the centre point of this protest is Svetlana G. Tikhanovskaya, a candidate for the presidential election. And she has only one agenda, "End of an era of Lukashenko." Thousands of people who came to her rally on Thursday in Minsk at Kyiv public garden shouted "Go away!" to the president.

The noise of the voices and claps of Tikhanovskaya's supporters has made a man who has a brutal and a large security apparatus on his command to rethink about his chances of winning the election this time.

Tikhanovskaya’s rise is no small measure due to Lukashenko. The president has practically got everyone arrested, including Tikhansovskaya’s husband, Sergei. Some are arrested, others have fled the country.

Even the state television, tightly gripped media outlet is slipping like sand out of Lukashenko's fist. Also, the faltering Belarusian economy and collapsed oil prices have turned the government and economic members against him. And he made the situation worse with his immature response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

He denied the virus being dangerous and fatal and suggested people take a frequent sauna, ride tractors, and drink vodka to save themselves from the infection. And last month, he claimed to be Covid-19 positive but denied any severe damage to his health.

In a recent interview on Wednesday with a Ukrainian blogger, Lukashenko said that he is a hardcore realist and understands all the factors that are against him. But he has no doubt about his win because only 20% of all the Belarussians might vote against him. He is a little worried about some unhappy people on the streets that he would have to disperse.

Russia is the country that sponsors Lukashenko’s regime. However, there is a feud simmering. Kremlin is not keen to reduce the energy prices. Last year, the Russian oil tax system made Belarus lose $400 million. Because of the tax, Minsk couldn’t buy oil at lower rates to sell it at a market price to Europe.

Both internal and external pressures can't change the fact that Lukashenko still controls the electoral system and can make it produce any result that he needs.

Meanwhile, metal shields have been reinforced around the fences at his residence in Minsk. Lukashenko has also visited many anti-riot troops and military bases. It’s unlikely he would lose this Sunday. But there is no denying the tide is turning against Europe’s last despot.

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