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Two opposition candidates win seats in parliament for the first time in 20 years. A Christian believes “times are changing” in a country under pressure on many fronts.
In Belarus, every little step towards full democracy is seen with great hope. On Sunday, candidates opposing President Alexander Lukashenko won 2 of the 110 seats in the parliamentary election.
Although it may not seem a great outcome, it is the biggest political success of the opposition in a country in which the same man has won all presidential elections in 21 years – always with more than 75% of the vote.
NGO's like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported about Lukashenko's authoritarian style of government.
TWO WOMEN TO CONFRONT THE GOVERNMENT
The two fresh voices in parliament are female. “One of them, Alena Anisim, stands for a national revival (the promotion of language and culture); the other one, Ana Kanapatskaya, stands for financial changes”, a Belarusian Christian told Evangelical Focus.
“This time there was a low turnout at the polls (in Minsk, less than 40%), maybe because people used to think that their voices change nothing. It is understandable if you know what has been happening in the last years”.
MUCH MORE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION NEEDED
After voting in Minsk, President Lukashenko said he had “done everything so that there aren’t complaints from the Western side. We accommodated their requests”.
But there is still much to be improved. International observers were not allowed to check the voters’ lists and their report highlighted the fact that “restricted freedom of assembly and expression narrowed the public space, negatively affected the election atmosphere”.
Nevertheless, it is good news that “the President no longer can close the Parliament completely to the opposition”, the Christian source in Belarus believes. “I think this is because of the difficult financial situation: the government creates new taxes all the time to patch a huge hole in the budget, people become poorer, their purchasing power falls all the time, wages shorten, and inflation grows”.
“Our reality is that we are in a real crisis and the country needs wisdom and changes… but the government is inert. They want to ‘save their face’, and they need the Western credits and support for that. This has led the government to show bigger respect for democracy during this election and a different attitude towards the opposition”, the Christian believes.
THE THREAT OF RUSSIA
But there is another factor to keep in mind. Lukashenko “feels the pressure” of their neighbours. “Belarus is situated between Europe and Russia. Ukraine is near, and people can see what the war has caused there. So, maybe in this situation the President doesn’t want ‘to rock the boat’”.
Russian financial support is needed, but the country fears the expansionist vision of Vladimir Putin. In one sense, there is a “common goal the government and the opposition share: Belarus’ national sovereignty”.
TIME FOR “PEACEFUL CHANGES”
This parliamentary election opens doors to a “movement for peaceful changes”. Those hoping for a more democratic country “will not only confront the government, but will also try to impact through peaceful co-working. The President will not be able to just ignore this”.
Was the election fair? Of course not, but many hope to see a different Belarus: “The election was not honest, but we will use our mandate and credentials”.
“There is hope to see positive changes”, the Christian in Belarus believes. “It is happening slowly, but times are changing”.