How has Belarus changed since ‘Europe’s last dictator’ came to power?
06 August 2020, 12:18
Belarusians are days away from heading to the polls to decide whether to keep incumbent strongman Alexander Lukashenko in power.
The presidential election, set to take place on August 9, has been in part characterised by protests and increased public interest in the vote.
Ahead of the election, several voters in Belarus told Euronews how they think their country has changed since Lukashenko — nicknamed “Europe’s last dictator” — came to power 26 years earlier.
Taisa, 82, said she felt people had been “living better” in the last few decades, and pointed to the “many cars” parked around her as proof of improvement.
“When we came here, there was only one car in our yard,” she said.
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Regarding shops, Taisa said there were “empty counters” until the 1990s, but insisted that now “it is better”. She added: “Lukashenko is doing his best. Of course, nobody is perfect.”
But for 46-year-old Ivan, the last 26 years has been a less positive time.
He told Euronews: “I preferred the Soviet Union. Even if there were a**holes in leadership then as well.
“I loved the Soviet Union. There was an excess of everything.
“I will say this: I will never vote for [Lukashenko]. For anyone else, but not for Lukashenko…I hate him.”
“There has been some progress. They’re developing football schools and many other things but wages could be higher,” 28-year-old Oleg told Euronews.
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“We didn’t know about the repression. Now everything is on the internet and in the media,” said Alexander, who is 76-years-old.
For the first time in Lukashenko’s nearly three decades in power, he is facing a serious leadership challenge.
There may have been a crackdown on many opposition candidates in the lead-up, but the wife of one, former English teacher Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as a possible contender.
Her husband was arrested back in May, and she has pledged to free political prisoners and hold new, fair elections in six months if elected.
Watch the video report in the player above.