Minsk had everything to gain by playing fair in this presidential election. Last night’s arrests and beatings might have cost it dearly.
by Barbara Frye
Here’s what we expected to happen in yesterday’s election in Belarus: although the election would not be completely fair, it would be more so than in the past, as President Alyaksandr Lukashenka tries, in his own limited way, to strengthen ties to the EU.
The OSCE’s election monitoring team had reported some progress, such as candidates being able to conduct campaign events “unhindered” and getting air time on state media. But, its latest report said, television news was still dominated by coverage of the incumbent, and some printing houses, allegedly under pressure from the security services, were reluctant to print literature for Lukashenka’s challengers. Further, candidates complained about the use of state resources to promote the president’s campaign.
If one sentence summed up the mood heading into the weekend, it was this: “While candidates have acknowledged a certain improvement in the election environment thus far, they still profess a lack of confidence in the possibility of a democratic election.”