Election in Belarus strengthens authoritarian rule despite opposition boycott

Belarus’ recent elections, devoid of opposition, solidified Lukashenko’s power. Widespread dissent, crackdowns, and international criticism marked the event, including U.S. condemnation of electoral irregularities and lack of democracy.

Belarusian authorities released initial results from parliamentary and local elections on Monday, where only candidates loyal to President Alexander Lukashenko were permitted to run, prompting opposition calls for a boycott. The elections solidified Lukashenko’s three-decade grip on power, as he aims to extend his rule with another five-year term in the upcoming presidential election. The majority of candidates represented the four officially recognised parties: Belaya Rus, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, and the Party of Labour and Justice. The Central Election Commission reported a voter turnout of 73%, with all 110 seats in the national parliament and 12,514 seats in local councils filled.


The recent elections in Belarus marked the first since the controversial 2020 vote, which saw Lukashenko secure his sixth term and sparked widespread protests. These demonstrations, drawing hundreds of thousands, resulted in over 35,000 arrests, with many subjected to police brutality, and led to the closure and banning of numerous independent media outlets and NGOs. Lukashenko has leaned on Russia for financial aid and political backing to quell the unrest, even permitting Russian troops to pass through Belarusian territory into Ukraine in February 2022.
Russian President Vladimir Putin extended congratulations to Lukashenko on what he described as  “the confident victory of patriotic forces of Belarus” praising it for ensuring internal political stability. Meanwhile, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, currently in exile in Lithuania following her challenge to Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election, called for a boycott of the elections, dismissing them as a meaningless spectacle.
Despite Belarus’s strict controls, Tsikhanouskaya’s video address was unexpectedly broadcast across the country after opposition activists gained access to approximately 2,000 street advertising screens. Following this, the Viasna Human Rights Centre reported that several employees of the company owning these screens were swiftly detained.
Amid a widespread crackdown on dissent, the election unfolded with more than 1,400 political prisoners, including opposition figures and human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, remaining detained. Ahead of the vote, Lukashenko made unsubstantiated claims of Western nations plotting a coup or attempting to seize power by force, leading to increased armed patrols by police. The opposition argued that the early voting period, which began on Tuesday, provided ample opportunity for manipulation, citing unprotected ballot boxes left unattended for five days. Election officials reported that over 40% of voters participated in early voting.
Following the election, Belarus intends to establish a new governmental body, the 1,200-seat All-Belarus Popular Assembly, composed of high-ranking officials, local lawmakers, union members, pro-government activists, and others. This entity will possess significant authority, including the ability to discuss constitutional amendments and appoint election officials and judges.

Once speculated to potentially lead the new body upon stepping down, Lukashenko reversed his stance and declared his intention to run in next year’s presidential election during Sunday’s announcement.


Belarus, for the inaugural occasion, opted not to invite observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to oversee the election. Belarus, being a member of the OSCE, a prominent trans-Atlantic security and rights organisation, has historically relied on OSCE monitors as the sole international observers for its elections over many years.