The Central Election Commission (TsVK) of Belarus announced on 11 October that long ruling president Alyaksandr Lukashenko has officially won the Presidential elections for the fifth time with 83.49% of the vote. Despite calls to boycott the election from various oppositionists, the voter turnout was reportedly 86.7%. Lukashenko ran against 3 other candidates: opposition movement leader Tatsyana Karatkevich (Havary Pravdu /Tell the Truth) and pro-government politicians Syarhey Haydukyevich (Liberal Democratic Party) and Mikalay Ulakhovich (Belarusian Patriotic Party). The official results do not come as a surprise, as all of Lukashenko’s re-elections have had similarly high official results in elections that are widely considered rigged.
According to official preliminary results 6.5% of the voters voted against all four candidates on the ballot, while Karatkevich came second with 4.42% of the votes. Haydukyevich and Ulakhovich, who both congratulated Lukashenko on his win before the results were announced, received 3.32% and 1.67% of the votes. Gaining 83.49% of the votes is a record high for Lukashenko, who received 79.65% in the 2010 Presidential elections. Beforehand he stated that he would only be satisfied if he equaled his 2010 results, saying "it is very important: If Lukashenka wins, that I retain what was there in the past election."
Boycott and irregularities
In the weeks leading up to the election various opposition leaders, including the just released Mikalai Statkevich, called on Belarusians not to participate in the elections. In various cities, including the capital Minsk, hundreds of stickers with the word “boycott” appeared in the days leading up to the election. It was possible to vote 5 days ahead of the elections and the TsVK reported that 36% had cast their ballot early. Despite the reported 86.7% turnout, local sources report a much lower turnout at various polling station. An observer from the opposition United Civil Party reported that at his polling station he counted 808 voters, while 1190 were reported by the staff working there. There have also been reports from various polling stations of names that have been taken off voters lists, as the turnout percentage is the relation between the number of persons who received ballot papers and the number of persons on voters’ lists.
The OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) monitored the elections and in a joint statement said that “The 11 October election once again indicated that Belarus still has a considerable way to go in meeting its OSCE commitments for democratic elections.” They reported that they were denied access to check voter lists at some locations, and reported instances of ballot box stuffing and group voting. Especially the counting process was assessed negatively, in 25% of the cases the OSCE was not allowed to observe the count. The OSCE and PACE also criticized the fact that the precinct election commissions (PECs) are responsible for voter registration and there is no permanent or centralized voter list, so that there could be multiple registrations or voters could be taken off of the voter lists. Furthermore the OSCE and PACE noticed the “relative public disinterest” in the election that was “accentuated by modest turnout at most campaign events”.
Unlike after the 2010 Presidential elections no mass protests have been held over the results of the elections. After casting his ballot Lukashenko warned opposition leaders, saying “we won’t allow anyone to destabilize the situation”. On October 10th, the day before the election, an unsanctioned protest was held in Minsk that was attended by some 2000 people. This protest was peaceful and police did not interfere as opposition leaders and former Presidential candidates Mikalay Statkevich and Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu denounced the elections in front of the crowd. On the evening of the election several hundreds of people again took to the streets to protest the “rigged election results”. While police blocked some roads, and 5 members of the Anarchist Movement were detained, there was no violent confrontation between police and protesters. Ahead of the elections the EU has signaled it was willing to lift sanctions against 140 Belarusians, including Lukashenko, if there would be no political crackdown during the elections. Some opposition leaders have protested this move and hope the EU will keep imposing the sanctions.