The Czar of Belarus

Alexander Lukashenko has stolen another seven-year term in his third decade of presidency on the border between Europe and Russia

by Peter Bjel

It is sometimes argued that dictatorships at least offer stability, a hypothesis that has been holding true in Europe’s former Soviet states. Autumn brought continued turmoil to most of the region: Ukraine remains mired in a seething insurgency in the country’s eastern regions, with Russian-backed rebels continuing to undermine the new authorities in Kiev; the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula experienced electrical blackouts after power links were sabotaged on the Ukrainian mainland; Moldova’s pro-European government coalition collapsed in November in the wake of protests over a banking scandal involving government officials and the disappearance of nearly $1 billion; and tensions between Russia and NATO continued to mount after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet it alleged had violated its airspace during a November operation in Syria.

In comparison, Belarus experienced relative stability. The nearly ten million Belarusians, however, are not the envy of their European neighbors. The recent reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko was a certainty, but it nonetheless reconfirmed a grim reality in the former Soviet state: Lukashenko remains, as he has been called, “Europe’s Last Dictator”.

The Belarusian president was sworn in for a fifth term in November, having officially received 83.5 percent of the vote in the October 11 election. He has been in power for more than 21 years. In the post-Soviet world, his political longevity is eclipsed only by the heavily authoritarian regimes in the Central Asian Republics.

Though both the E.U. and the United States condemned the irregularities that took place during the election, they announced a suspension of sanctions against the regime, which was welcomed by the president. Lukashenko’s release of political prisoners prior to the election was seen as a concession to the West, but the more likely reason behind the …

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