Lukashenko Clings to Power in Belarus Despite Protests and Promises

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Despite massive street protests and international condemnation, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko continues to hold onto power and shows no signs of relinquishing his position. The upcoming All Belarusian People’s Assembly, initially expected to offer concessions and a potential route out of power, is now anticipated to be a gathering of loyalists that will only affirm Lukashenko’s plan to remain in control. Observers believe the event will not bring about any significant political change.

Last August, Lukashenko faced widespread protests and demands for new elections, with hundreds of thousands of Belarusians supporting Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the wife of a jailed presidential candidate. At the time, Lukashenko employed violent crackdowns, arrests, and harassment of protest organizers to suppress the demonstrations. The Kremlin also provided lukewarm support to Lukashenko, considering him a preferable option to acquiescing to the power of the streets.

Initially, Lukashenko spoke of constitutional reforms to transition to a parliamentary system of government, but in recent weeks, he has reverted to his authoritarian tendencies, threatening further violence. The riot police and the KGB, who remain loyal to Lukashenko, continue to target protest organizers and activists. Many individuals are in jail, while thousands have fled the country, seeking refuge in places like Warsaw and Vilnius. The massive protests of the past have dwindled, giving way to sporadic local demonstrations.

While Tikhanovskaya has gained recognition as the legitimate leader of Belarus by Western politicians, her influence within the country has waned over time. The “coordination council” she established to oversee a peaceful transition of power has seen its members imprisoned or forced to flee. Although the EU supports Tikhanovskaya, Moscow has not yet abandoned Lukashenko, as it is cautious about revolutionary change, especially in light of the protests against the Russian government following Alexei Navalny’s return.

The crackdown on dissent in Belarus has extended to journalists, with Belarusian reporters targeted and foreign journalists denied accreditation. Independent media outlets, such as Tut.by, have lost their legal status, and journalists have faced imprisonment for revealing inconvenient truths about regime actions.

Despite the challenges faced by the opposition and the repression inflicted by Lukashenko’s regime, Tikhanovskaya’s supporters continue to advocate for change, seeking to highlight the benefits of the coordination council and dispel Moscow’s fears. However, as time passes, the situation in Belarus increasingly becomes entangled in geopolitics, making it harder to achieve a peaceful resolution.

In summary, Lukashenko remains firmly in power in Belarus, defying protests and promises of reform. The crackdown on dissent and the loyalty of Lukashenko’s inner circle have allowed him to maintain control. Tikhanovskaya and her supporters face significant challenges in their quest for democratic change, as Moscow still supports Lukashenko and geopolitical dynamics complicate the situation.