Despite the election of opposition parliamentarians for the first time in twenty years, legislative elections in Belarus have not delivered true democracy to the people of that country. The Socialist International reiterates its firm support and solidarity to all those in Belarus engaged in the fundamental struggle for democracy and human rights.
On 11 September 2016, Belarusian citizens went to the polls for parliamentary elections, the results of which are now known. The new parliament contains two opposition MPs, the first elected since 1996, but remains overwhelmingly dominated by those who support President Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko has ruled the country since 1994, maintaining absolute power through the systematic repression of the opposition and rigging of elections.
Observers of the parliamentary elections have raised concerns over significant procedural irregularities during early voting, counting and tabulation procedures. In addition, the overall political climate is not at all conducive to the holding of democratic elections, with severe restrictions on the fundamental freedom of opposition parties and candidates to organise and express themselves. The SI believes that under free and fair electoral conditions, many more opposition candidates would have been elected, making the result as presented by the Belarusian authorities a mere gesture to obscure the continuing absence of democracy.
Many in the united opposition, which includes the SI-member Belarusian Social Democratic Party (BSDP-NH), view the presence of the two opposition MPs among those elected as an attempt by the regime to create an illusion of democratic progress. It is however clear that two dissenting voices will not be able to exert a great deal of influence in a 110-member chamber that has limited powers under the authoritarian system that prevails in Lukashenko's Belarus.
In light of the clear shortcomings in the democratic process, the SI fully supports the peaceful protests organised by the BSDP-NH and other opposition forces on 12 September in favour of free and fair elections. A prominent voice at these protests was Mikalai Statkevich, chair of the BSDP-NH and former presidential candidate, who was imprisoned by the authorities for four years and eight months following the illegitimate presidential elections of 2010. The SI stood by Statkevich and other Belarusian political prisoners during their incarceration and will continue to advance the democratic cause in Belarus. We encourage the international community to do the same, by maintaining pressure on the Belarusian regime in order to encourage real change.