Elections 2015: Lukashenka won again, no arrests

April 22, 2016 19:32

Belarusian electoral machine has ‘improved’ and now ensures Lukashenka’s re-election through a combination of administrative pressure and falsifications with minimal violence. The policy of the authorities as a result of the election will remain unchanged, the opposition is likely to be reformatted and leaders may change. 

The Central Electoral Commission has announced the preliminary results of the elections: Lukashenka – 83,4%, followed by "against all" – 6,4%, Karatkevich – 4,42%, Gaydukevich – 3,32%, and Ulakhovich – 1,67%. 

It should be noted that during this elections there were no independent opinion polls. As a rule, candidates’ headquarters requested polls from foreign sociological laboratories from Ukraine and Russia and Vardomatsky’s Novak laboratory. In the 2015 elections, candidates did not have funds to organise independent polls and the only source of alternative information would be IISEPS polls, which were scheduled for December this year. However, the IISEPS data would only report about respondents’ moods in December. 

Lukashenka’s voting machine continues to improve. In the current elections, it has managed to ensure unprecedented high turnout during the early voting. Moreover, observers said that the official early turnout figures had been inflated relative to the real by maximum 10%. In addition, the authorities’ attitudes and treatment of observers, candidates and elections coverage by the official media was less harsh than in previous elections. 

After 8 pm on October 11th, several protesters gathered on the October Square in Minsk and about 200 people marched to the Independence Square, taking the same route as protesters in 2010. The action lasted about an hour and ended with no arrests. It should be noted that there were no detentions regardless of Lukashenka warning at a polling station No1 regarding unacceptability of street protests after 8 pm. 

Ulakhovich and Gaydukevich have congratulated Lukashenka on his election victory - despite the disappointing number of votes they have collected. Karatkevich intends to challenge the election results. The split in the opposition will deteriorate after the elections despite the fact that neither supporters of Karatkevich, nor supporters of Statkevich have agreed with the election results and neither of them showed up at the protest action after the elections. In the coming months supporters of Karatkevich will attempt to build the potential of the candidate and supporters of Statkevich will seek opportunities to organise street protests. Meanwhile, further findings and impact of the elections on the opposition will be analysed in the coming weeks. 

As for the ‘regular’ winner Lukashenka, he does not intend to review his policies. To be fair, he probably could not, even if he had such intention.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.