David McAllister MEP
Vice President of the International Democrat Union (IDU)
The presidential elections that took place in Belarus on Sunday, 9 August 2020, have once again failed to meet basic democratic standards. In the absence of international observers, the people of Belarus themselves organised independent monitoring and, despite hindrances and harassment from the authorities, noted widespread violations and fraud. Mass protests that erupted following the election show that the people neither trust nor accept the results published by the Central Election Commission.
Long queues in front of polling stations in many parts of the country confirm that Belarusians across the country are demanding change. They have been deprived of that possibility. I welcome the unprecedented mobilisation of the society, who showed that they would no longer tolerate their right to participate in free and fair elections being taken away from them. The election process in Belarus has been marred by widespread bureaucratic interference favouring the incumbent, intimidation and repression towards other candidates and their supporters, multiple arrests, attempts to silence independent journalists, bloggers and to take down dissident websites. Because of restrictive measures many people were not even able to cast their ballot. The regime in Minsk did everything it could to make a proper, sincere vote impossible for the people. This was not a free and fair contest!
The falsified results announced by the Lukashenko authorities do not represent the democratic will of the people of Belarus, expressed by their real votes. The regime of Mr Lukashenko did not comply with minimum international standards for a credible process, democracy, transparency and the rule of law. I demand that the real election results of every polling station are announced. I call on the authorities to refrain from violence and persecution against their own people who wish to express their legitimate demands. All those arbitrarily detained during the election campaign and after it must be released immediately.
Belarusians have every right to protest and express publicly their anger because of the attempts by the regime to steal their victory. The spontaneous protests all over the country were peaceful. Mobilising such unprecedented numbers of riot police and other law enforcement services was unnecessary. Therefore, Mr Lukashenko is fully responsible for the bloodshed and first casualties that followed on the streets of Minsk and other cities of the country. I resolutely demand that the regime of Mr Lukashenko refrains from further violence. All peaceful protestors detained on Sunday night, approximately 3.000, have to be released immediately. I express my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during last night’s protests.
This is a pivotal moment for Belarus. Tangible progress regarding democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and freedoms is the only way to ensure the sovereignty, stability and development of the Republic of Belarus. I welcome the courage of the people of Belarus. I believe that it is our obligation to enhance international support for civil society. In this context I suggest to relaunch targeted EU assistance programmes to help repressed people in Belarus and their families. I expect that the EU will not provide any financial or other assistance that may benefit the illegitimate regime of Mr Lukashenko, which is the main obstacle of the development of Belarus.
Hostile acts, the disproportionate brutal force of the law enforcement services, the heavy use of tear gas, batons, flash grenades and water cannons towards ordinary people of Belarus and the falsification of the elections must have consequences according to international law. Targeted sanctions against Mr Lukashenko, his closest environment and the leadership of the law enforcement services involved in brutal repressions against the people, including independent media, journalists, social activists and peaceful protesters, have to be introduced. They should include a freeze of assets, travel bans, economic sectoral sanctions on industries closely linked with the regime and the expulsion from international organisations. The restrictive measures should also involve members of central and regional electoral commissions involved in a massive falsification of the election results. The restrictive measures can be revised depending on the evolution of the situation in Belarus, in particular as regards the announcement of the real results or of new free and fair democratic presidential election and the release of all political prisoners.