Support The Moscow Times!

Belarus to Vote for President Dec. 19

MINSK — The Belarussian parliament on Tuesday decided to set the nation's next presidential election for December, marking the start of a campaign that Russia will likely try to influence.

Belarus' fractured opposition has failed to agree on a single candidate to challenge President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron hand since 1994, stifling dissent and free media.

Lukashenko, however, is now facing a new challenge in the Dec. 19 election — a widening rift with Belarus' main sponsor, Russia.

"Open confrontation between Lukashenko and the Kremlin could make it more difficult for Lukashenko to win the vote this time," said Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent Minsk-based political analyst.

Russia in June partially cut natural gas supplies to Belarus for three days over its debt for previous deliveries, finally forcing its neighbor to pay.

Klaskovsky and other analysts said public discontent over rising consumer prices could erode Lukashenko's support base and affect the vote.

In addition to that, Russian television stations recently have run several documentaries containing fierce criticism of Lukashenko and exposing his alleged abuses — a propaganda barrage that is likely to intensify in the coming months.

Russia has not yet cast its support behind any of the Belarussian opposition leaders, but observers expect the Kremlin to make its preferences clear later.

Lukashenko struck a conciliatory note Tuesday during a meeting with the Russian chief of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-dominated security grouping of ex-Soviet nations that includes Belarus. "Even though the Russian leadership has kept scratching us … that hasn't enraged us against it," Lukashenko said, Itar-Tass reported.

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more