Presidential election in Belarus: Police take action against demonstrators

The Belarusian state media are already announcing the election victory of the ruler Lukashenko, but the opposition sees his rival Tichanovskaya ahead. There are clashes with the police in several cities.

After the controversial presidential election in Belarus, clashes broke out between the police and protesters. In the capital Minsk, the police attacked the demonstrators with water cannons, rubber bullets and stun grenades. According to media reports, tear gas was used in Brest.

Pictures in the online networks showed demonstrators running through the streets with bloodied faces. Videos were posted on Twitter showing security forces beating people in Minsk. The police were then attacked by passers-by. Eyewitnesses described chaotic scenes.

According to observers, up to 100,000 people are said to have participated in the demonstrations. Thousands of demonstrators gathered at a memorial in the center of the city. Protesters tried to erect barricades. Opposition media reported that a police van had driven into the crowd.

There were reports of injuries and dozens of arrests. The Interior Ministry said no one had been injured. The police have the situation “under control”.

Accusation: election fraud

The protests are directed against alleged election fraud and a victory for President Alexander Lukashenko announced by the authorities. According to state media, Lukashenko received 79 percent of the vote. This is the result of so-called exit polls, for which more than 12,000 eligible voters were asked after the polls. 30 percent of them would not have given an answer, it said. The opposition candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaya is said to have received only 6.8 percent of the vote.

Preliminary results are expected for Monday. Independent post-election surveys abroad have already come to a different conclusion than the state authorities: According to them, Tichanovskaya is said to have gained 71 percent – Lukashenko only ten percent.

Even hours after the end of the vote, there were no initial official results from the election commission. The website of the central election control was no longer available. Individual local election commissions appeared in front of the crowds and announced results that Lukashenko had suffered a severe defeat. In part, Tichanovskaya came to between 80 to 90 percent of the vote.

“Unprecedented crisis”

Tichanovskaya criticized the vote. She rejected the official by-election polls. “I believe in what I see with my own eyes and I see that the majority is behind us,” she said. The 37-year-old had gained massive support in recent weeks and mobilized numerous supporters, although the authorities had cracked down on the opposition.

“A deep, unprecedented crisis is looming,” said Tichanowskaja’s colleague Maria Kolesnikova at a press conference that evening. She accused the government of having turned out more than 100 percent in several polling stations.

Victory celebrations in several cities

Demonstrators celebrated Tichanovskaya’s victory in individual locations. The people called on the uniformed men to bow to the will of the electorate and join the people. In individual villages, the police were barely able to resist the crowds, reports close to the opposition Internet portals. Thousands of people marched through the streets celebrating and shouting: “Long live Belarus!”

Tichanovskaya called on the security forces to renounce violence. “I want to remind the police and the military that they are part of the people,” she said on the night, according to her campaign staff. She appealed to her followers to refrain from provocations. “I know that the people of Belarus will wake up in a new country tomorrow.”

Threats to protesters in the run-up to the election

The incumbent ruler Lukashenko ran for a sixth term – he has been in power for two and a half decades. Observers expected Lukashenko to win a clear victory even before the election. He had already announced in the run-up to the election that crackdowns would be taken against demonstrators. Security forces cordoned off large parts of the center. Hundreds were gathered at the presidential palace.

The situation was tense during election day. At least eight members of the opposition campaign team were arrested.



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