Bordovski Yauheni /
Belarus’s protests aren’t particularly anti-Putin

The mass uprising sparked by the viciousness of Belarus’s security services toward protests against an apparently fraudulent presidential election this month caught everyone by surprise. Although the vote, which incumbent President Aleksandr Lukashenko claimed to have won by more than 80 percent, was clearly rigged, the expectation inside Belarus and in the world beyond was that contemporary Europe’s longest-ruling dictator, having dominated Belarus for 26 years, would continue doing so.

Well, not this time. Lukashenko now lives on borrowed time.

The ridiculously huge margin of his victory—can’t despots ever be satisfied with claiming to have won, say, 60 percent of the votes in elections they steal?—and more so the arrest of some 7,000 nonviolent demonstrators, many of whom were badly beaten on the streets and while in detention, created a tsunami of anger.

Indeed, far from cowing the protesters, the regime’s show of force brought even more of them on to the streets. From Minsk, the capital, to smaller cities across the country, even workers at state-owned factories—whom the government had long regarded as loyal—went on strike, booed Lukashenko, and demanded that he depart. Hundreds of employees at the state-run television station Belarus 1 also refused to work until new elections were held and censorship ended. Riot police ditched their crowd control paraphernalia in a gesture of camaraderie with the protesters.

Within days, the seemingly invincible Lukashenko was on political life support.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

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