Belarus. According to
Countryaah, President Aljaksandr Lukashenka showed his
distaste for the United States by not inviting the US
ambassador to New Year's reception for foreign diplomats.
Instead, Lukashenka's regime came to strengthen its
relations with US enemies during the year.
Following the terrorist attacks in the United States on
September 11, US and Israeli intelligence agencies pointed
out Belarus as the main arms supplier to Islamic extremists.
During the first half of 2001, Belarus has signed contracts
with Arab, Palestinian and Albanian Muslim extremists for
approximately SEK 3.8 billion. In May, Belarus and Iraq
signed an agreement on economic cooperation and in June,
Lukashenka announced that Belarus had promised credit from
Libya. When Belarus was isolated by the West because of
Lukashenka's authoritarian rule, the regime's willingness to
sell weapons to the enemies of the Western world apparently
Former criminal investigators at the Belarussian
Prosecutor's Office claimed in June that three of President
Lukashenka's missing political opponents had in fact been
shot by death patrols linked to the country's top
leadership. It involved a former Interior Minister, a former
Deputy Prime Minister and a photographer who worked for the
President. The respondents, who received political asylum in
the US, said that the investigation into the disappearances
was stopped by one of the president's employees. The US
State Department declared that the information was credible,
but it was denied by Lukashenka.
Several times during the year Lukashenka accused the OSCE
of funding the country's opposition and conspiring to
overthrow him. The OSCE sent about 300 observers to the
Belarusian presidential elections in September, criticizing
the election campaign for lack of transparency and justice.
According to the official result, Lukashenka won 75% of the
vote, while the main challenger Vladimir Gantjarik received
just over 15%. Gantjarik accused the authorities of
electoral fraud and unsuccessfully demanded re-election.
After the election, Lukashenka appointed Deputy Prime
Minister Henadz Navitski as new head of government.
Lukashenka's way to power
President Lukashenka expressed considerable power
ambitions early on and quickly came into conflict with the
Supreme Soviet. In May 1995, Lukashenka conducted a
referendum on four issues: the introduction of the right of
dissolution for the president in relation to the Supreme
Soviet, the introduction of Russian as the second state
language, the reintroduction of a variant of the old state
symbols of the Soviet era, and closer integration with
Russia. The population voted in favor of all four proposals.
At the same time, parliamentary elections were held.
Lukashenka called for a boycott of this election, and only
after four rounds of elections in December 1995 were enough
representatives elected to the legislative power to make a
In November 1996, Lukashenka conducted a new referendum
in which Belarusians were asked to decide on a strengthening
of the presidential power, at the expense of the power of
politicians. According to official figures, 70.5 percent of
voters supported Lukashenka's proposal to amend the
Constitution to give almost dictatorial powers to the
president. Despite strong protests and allegations of
electoral fraud, Lukashenka appointed a new National
Assembly. Communists, liberals and nationalists united in
opposition to Lukashenka and criticized his authoritarian
regime, but lacked strong leaders in the fight against the
In 2000 and 2004, new parliamentary elections were held.
In both cases, international observers with OSCE at the
forefront were strongly critical to its implementation. In
2000, parts of the opposition chose to boycott the election
in protest against Lukashenka's rule, but some opposition
representatives were nevertheless elected. In 2004, when the
opposition chose to participate fully, not a single
opposition candidate was elected.
In 2001, presidential elections were held, and Lukashenka
was re-elected with 75.6 percent of the vote. Following a
controversial referendum in 2004, a constitutional clause
was removed that prohibited a president from sitting for
more than two consecutive periods. This allowed Lukashenka
to stand for election for a third term in 2006.
Against the presidential election in 2006, the opposition
united and voted with one joint candidate; Aljaksandr
Milinkevich. But the opposition had little to oppose
Lukashenka's authoritarian politics and media censorship.
According to the official election results, Lukashenka
received 82.6 percent of the vote.
At the 2010 presidential election, nine candidates
opposed Lukashenka. For the first time since the 1994
elections, debates were held between the candidates on state
television and radio, though without the president's
participation. Independent polls ahead of the election
showed that Lukashenka had the support of nearly 50 percent
of voters, while the rest of the population dispersed at the
other candidates. The election result was significantly
better for the incumbent president, receiving 79.7 percent
of the vote.
The election results led to major protests in Minsk,
which were immediately and brutally beaten down by police
and special forces. Many hundreds of people were arrested,
as were seven of the presidential candidates, and several
were sentenced to several years in prison, accused of being
called for a coup d'etat.
The Belarusian opposition has become increasingly
difficult under Lukashenka. A number of opposition leaders
have been arrested or exiled. However, the opposition has
also struggled with relatively limited popular support and
in finding a unifying leader. The situation of the media and
civil society is also very difficult in today's
authoritarian Belarus. Regime-critical newspapers are
routinely shut down, and many organizations have had trouble
getting the government's permission to work.