After 26 years of dictatorship and an umpteenth electoral masquerade on Sunday 9 August 2020, the Belarusian people spontaneously and massively took to the streets on the evening of the results announcing the “re-election” of the dictator Alexander Lukashenko with 80% of the votes against 10% for his main opponent.
This country of almost 10 million inhabitants, independent since 1991, has never had free elections and the political opposition has always been systematically repressed in violence. Human rights abuses are regularly reported by Amnesty International: journalists and opponents arrested, the death penalty still in force, corruption and the dictator’s clan’s favours.
For the first time in 26 years and after the imprisonment or exile of the three main opponents of the dictator Lukashenko, three women have decided to unite with the sole programme of organising free elections and the release of political opponents. Prior to the elections, opposition rallies and meetings were regularly attacked by OMON (riot police) and nervis paid by the Belarusian government to create excesses and intimidate the people.
On election day, numerous falsifications and irregularities were observed throughout the country by local NGOs such as Viasna: vote counting could not be observed, polling stations were closed early while voters were still waiting to cast their ballots, ballot papers disappeared. On the evening of the results the Belarusian people did not accept to be scorned again. Tens of thousands of them took to the streets, defying the OMON and the authorities throughout the country.
Demonstrations of an unprecedented scale, further destabilizing the veracity of the official results. Since Sunday 9 August, demonstrations have been daily and massive, the repression has been very strong: at least two demonstrators have been killed, more than 7000 arbitrary arrests have been counted, testimonies reporting rape, beatings and humiliation by the security forces have multiplied and the police have justified the use of firearms on the crowd.
Spontaneous calls for a general strike have been made, many factories are now on strike and the movement seems to be spreading throughout the country. Thousands of workers in the main Belarusian factories have voted to go on strike, such as at the mining and industrial machinery factory BELAZ, the flagship of the country’s economy. Railway workers, hospital staff, IT and chemical workers have now stopped working. Ultimatums in many sectors of activity have been issued by employees demanding the resignation of the dictator and the release of political prisoners. Civil servants resigned. Defections are taking place in the police and the army.
More than ever we must show solidarity with the demonstrators in Belarus: In addition to the seizure of all the country’s resources by Dictator Lukashenko and his clan, Belarus has been undergoing a severe economic crisis for several months. In addition to denying the reality of the progress of the epidemic in the country, the dictator Lukashenko advised his people to drink vodka to protect themselves from the virus, further inflating the Belarusians’ mistrust of the ruling power.
The member organisations of the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggle support the ongoing general strike and the popular and spontaneous demonstrations demanding the departure of Alexander Lukashenko and the holding of free elections. We strongly condemn the brutal repression of a regime that has only this argument to keep itself in power and demand the release of all political prisoners in prison.