“The only possible path to becoming a real democracy is a revolution”

, by Dasha Shkarupina

“The only possible path to becoming a real democracy is a revolution”
Minsk, Belarus. Credit: Nigel Swales, [Flickr=>https://www.flickr.com/photos/nigel321/2462672494]

At the beginning of 2020, no one in Belarus could have predicted what the elections would look like. No one had heard of Victor Babriko and Valery Tsepkalo, who then became the main opposition figures in the country. For you, it may sound unusual for candidates to establish themselves only a month before the registration deadline for the presidential run, but that is the only way to be politically active in Belarus.

Sergey Tikhanovsky, however, was known long before the election campaign started. He was a YouTube blogger traveling around the country and interviewing local people, soon his channel started to grow bigger and bigger, and people asked him to run for President. In these elections, Sergey can be seen as the trigger for a fast-growing opposition and the person who gave the other opposition candidates Babariko and Tsepkalo the opportunity to run for the seat without being arrested before the registration window.

When Sergey was arrested on May 29, his wife Svetlana Tikhanovskay took over his campaign (Sergey is still in jail).

Registration of candidates was scheduled from July 5 to July 14. Before that, each candidate had to gather at least 100,000 signatures in one month in order to be registered. Now let’s compare with the example of Russia: the Belarusian population totals 9 million people while the Russian one is 145 million, yet we have the same rules on collecting signatures which is 100,000 in both countries. So it’s very hard in Belarus to make the threshold. But we made it. Every opposition candidate made it with quite big numbers: Tsepkalo gathered 180,000, Babariko had 335,000, Svetlana Tikhanovskay had around 100,000. In contrast, the incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko gathered more than half a million signatures.

After submitting those signatures, Babariko and Tsepkalo “lost” 240,000 and 90,000 accordingly and were not registered officially. On that day people went to the Minsk city center to protest and expressed their dissatisfaction with the obviously fake results. This protest ended up with more than 200 people arrested, and more than 100 people with injuries due to police brutality.

The day before the registration ended, Victor Babariko was arrested on his way to the election commission.

Now you can easily guess what happens next. No one from the alternative candidates was approved - except Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the wife of the YouTuber who initially ran.

Here comes the most interesting and important part - the creation of an alliance between the Babariko, Tsepkalo, and Tikhanovskaya opposition camps. Since Victor Babariko is now in jail, Maria Kolesnikova, who previously worked on his campaign team, has taken over from him. After Valeriy Tsepkalo left the country to avoid arrest, his wife Veronica took over that campaign. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya had already taken over from her husband, the jailed blogger.

These three women are our future and our hope. They have joined forces to create a united opposition front. They travelled around the country, meeting with their potential voters and giving heart-breaking speeches. Those meetings were the biggest in our history: 63,000 people were present in the capital last week which is a record for Belarus.

Today, the election is finally upon us. Authorities are still trying to stop Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s meetings and rallies, trying to arrest every person involved in her campaign. A lot of independent election observers (if not all of them) were banned from entering the polling station.

Fair elections will not be possible in our country and it may sound sad but Belarusians have to sacrifice their lives and property in order to overthrow Lukashenko’s regime. Today’s election is another false picture of “democracy” portrayed by Lukashenko and his cronies. Sadly the only possible path to becoming a real democracy is revolution.

We are not an opposition to authorities but authorities are our opposition.

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