On August 10, 2020, the Belarusian Central Election Commission announced that President Alexander Lukashenko had defeated opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya with 79.6% of the vote. Following the declaration, civil unrest gripped several of country's most populous cities. The majority of citizens refuse to believe the election was held in good faith, given Mr. Lukashenko's propensity to rely on dirty tricks to retain power. Meanwhile, the Russian Federation is eyeing Belarus with increasing interest, as instability on such a vulnerable border is detrimental to Moscow's interests.
The Intelligence Ledger assesses that Mr. Lukashenko did not, in fact, receive 79.6% of the popular vote. Belarusian officials are well-known for their tendency to ballot-stuff in order to sway elections in favor of incumbent party candidates. They have successfully carried out such actions thanks to the government's ban on independent election observers, as most democratic and republican nations allow. This supposition is supported by Russian election monitor GOLOS, who declared earlier that Mrs. Tikhanovskaya was the true victor with around roughly 75% of legitimate ballots.
The declaration of Mr. Lukashenko's victory was met with anger from Belarusian citizens. People poured into the country's most populous metropolises, protesting a lack of transparency, economic stagnation, and the government's reliance of authoritarian tactics. In response, security forces severely restricted internet access and reportedly cut phone lines. Riot police responded forcefully to protestors and rioters that approached government positions, arresting nearly 3,000 Belarusian citizens in less than seven hours.
As chaos continued in the streets, Mrs. Tikhanovskaya's campaign announced that it does not recognize the election results. The opposition candidate has reportedly made overtures to President Lukashenko in an attempt bring about the peaceful transfer of power. Tikhanovskaya herself has gone into hiding following the arrest of several high-ranking campaign members.
Moscow has watched events unfold in Minsk with a great deal of interest. Belarus sits on one of Russia's most exposed borders, and as such, stability must be maintained at all costs. Mr. Lukashenko has repeatedly angered Russia in recent weeks, especially in regards to the arrest of 33 Russian citizens. Following the arrest, President Lukashenko forward deployed 3,000 troops to its border with Russia with the expressed purpose of deterring an invasion. The Intelligence Ledger confirmed at the time that the deployment was a political stunt, as Russian forces near the Belarusian border were clearly not prepared for such an operation. Although Mr. Putin called Lukashenko to congratulate him on the victory, repeated outbursts by Minsk may force him to act in order to ensure Moscow's strategic interests are not interfered with.
The leaders of the People's Republic of China, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have all voiced their support for Lukashenko in the past hours. Meanwhile, the several members European Union, including Germany and Poland, have raised doubts as to the legitimacy of Lukashenko's reign.