Lukashenko’s rival asks him to ‘hand over power’

Published August 11, 2020
Demonstrators rally after the Belarusian presidential election in Minsk on Sunday. — AP
Demonstrators rally after the Belarusian presidential election in Minsk on Sunday. — AP

MINSK: The main challenger in Belarus’s disputed election called on President Alexander Lukashenko to give up power on Monday after a fierce police crackdown on protesters saw dozens wounded and hundreds detained.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, whose surprise candidacy posed the biggest challenge to the veteran leader in years, said Sunday’s presidential vote had been rigged and accused authorities of resorting to force to hold on to power.

“The voters made their choice but the authorities did not hear us, they have broken with the people,” Tikhanovskaya told a press conference after police used stun grenades, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse crowds in Minsk and other cities.

“The authorities should think about how to peacefully hand over power to us,” she said. “I consider myself the winner of this election.” There were calls on pro-opposition social media accounts for more protests in Minsk on Monday and for labour strikes.

Election officials confirmed Lukashenko’s re-election to a sixth term on Monday morning, saying he had won with more than 80 percent of the vote, with Tikhanovskaya coming second with 10 percent.

The 65-year-old former collective farm boss has ruled ex-Soviet Belarus since 1994, stamping out dissent and earning the nickname of “Europe’s last dictator”.

European governments questioned the results of Sunday’s election, with the European Union calling for ballots to be “accurately” counted, Germany voicing “strong doubts” about the conduct of the vote and Belarus’s neighbour Poland calling for an emergency EU summit on the situation.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2020

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