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Category: Issue 1-2 2024

Issue 1-2/2024: Elections without choice

Is there hope for Belarus? Read the latest issue of New Eastern Europe now available

February 7, 2024 - New Eastern Europe

Belarus between a difficult yesterday and an uncertain tomorrow

Building upon the ongoing analysis of the research group "BELARUS-UKRAINE-REGION", which was established at the Centre for East European Studies at the University of Warsaw in autumn 2020, and in cooperation with New Eastern Europe, we present a series of sketches depicting the situation in Belarus during the latter half of 2023.

February 7, 2024 - Henryk Litwin

Belarus: new elections to preserve a tired dictatorship

On February 25th 2024, Belarus will hold its first elections since August 2020, which resulted in mass protests for several months. How are the Belarusian authorities preparing for this event and what will be the likely outcome?

In the years that followed the controversial 2020 election – a resounding Lukashenka “victory” of over 80 per cent which bore little relation to the popular support for the challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya – the ruling regime has undergone several serious trials to which it has responded ever more harshly. Its recent measures have included the elimination of the opposition’s media sites, the shutdown of hundreds of civil society organisations and the dissolution of all opposition and several official political parties.

February 7, 2024 - David Marples Katsiaryna Lozka

The new dualism of Belarusian politics

In February 2024, Belarus will hold a parliamentary election, the first contest since the rigged presidential election of 2020. The democratic opposition is barred from participating and has called for a boycott. While the outcome of the election itself is pre-determined, the process is an illustration of the development of a new dualism in the Belarusian political system.

More than three years after the events which initiated a new dynamic in Belarusian political history and significantly impacted changes within the system, the first electoral campaign awaits us in February of this year. While rightfully labelled “elections without choice” by many researchers, it does not mean that they will be devoid of significance. In attempting to analyse and study the Belarusian case, we must agree that the term “Belarusian politics” itself has become dualistic. When discussing it, we often refer to two clearly different dimensions, or at the very least, two different levels.

February 7, 2024 - Maxim Rust

The paradox of Belarusian authoritarianism

Parliamentary elections in Belarus have always been a mere formality. Low voter turnout and minimal public attention during parliamentary elections make them safer in terms of legitimizing the system through the electoral model. For the Belarusian regime, the parliament and the elections to it are a kind of initiation ritual in the system’s personnel policy.

Why are parliamentary elections being held in Belarus? Despite risks for the regime, elections persist in a country where one person has been president since 1994, and the process of electing members to parliament and local councils seems more like appointments. The next elections will take place on February 25th 2024 and will see members chosen for the lower house of parliament alongside local council deputies. Then on April 4th, elections will be held for the upper house and the All-Belarusian People's Assembly. For the Belarusian regime, it is particularly important to hold elections at all levels, even in such challenging geopolitical conditions. This is a crucial element in the legitimation and initiation of people in power.

February 7, 2024 - Anton Saifullayeu

Post-Lukashism. Prospects for change in Belarus after regime collapse

The events of 2020 and the conviction that the fall of the Lukashenka regime is inevitable have prompted a number of businessmen to actively participate in the political processes in Belarus. This can serve as a basis for the assertion that in the event of the destruction or destabilization of the authoritarian regime, business groups will play an extremely important role in shaping a new way of life.

At the moment, it is obvious that the prospects for political change in Belarus are postponed indefinitely. At the same time, the probability of a rapid transition from authoritarianism to democracy is still uncertain. The protracted war in Ukraine and the systemic stability of Putin’s regime in Russia will contribute to the internal stabilization and consolidation of the authoritarian system of government in Belarus. This process will also be facilitated by relentless repression and political purges, which will suppress any dangerous activities in society, as well as increase the atmosphere of fear and terror. To date, there are no acute systemic internal threats and challenges to Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime.

February 7, 2024 - Pavel Usau

The world according to BelTA

The use of propaganda tools by non-democratic regimes is not new or particularly sophisticated. For years, the Belarusian Telegraphic Agency has been a broadcaster that has not even pretended to be objective. As a result, it is commonly perceived as a means of spreading Belarusian and pro-Russian propaganda and disinformation.

On December 27th 2023, thanks to the service of the Belarusian Telegraphic Agency (BelTA), the world learned that Alyaksandr Lukashenka had opened a New Year's Eve ball for youth at the Palace of Independence in Minsk. The group also reported that the participants of the event danced the traditional caddy and mazurek dances, alongside the styles of modern rock and roll, mambo, boogie-woogie, lambada and twist.

February 7, 2024 - Justyna Olędzka

Ukraine’s limited dialogue with Belarusian democratic forces

The onset of dialogue between the Ukrainian authorities and the Belarusian democratic forces began in autumn 2022. However, it did not continue so strongly in 2023. This can be partly explained by the difficult situation on the battlefield in the Russian war against Ukraine, which is naturally the priority for the authorities in Kyiv. At the same time, Ukraine has maintained its diplomatic relations with the authorities in Minsk.

In February of 2022, Russian tanks used Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine through the north to try and install a puppet government in Kyiv. After Alyaksandr Lukashenka recognized Crimea as Russian at the end of autumn 2021, the question of warming relations between Kyiv and the Belarusian dictator was finally eliminated. Nevertheless, diplomatic relations remained between Ukraine and Belarus. They were not torn apart even after the outbreak of the full-scale Russian aggression with the participation of Belarus, so a certain official level of dialogue was still ongoing.

February 7, 2024 - Oleksandr Shevchenko

Remote grieving: how Belarusian refugees face the death of someone close

The number of Belarusians in exile continues to grow following the crackdowns and repressions after the falsified elections in 2020. Most of those who leave cannot return until a major change in Belarus. As seen in the experiences of three young Belarusian activists, the emotional toll can sometimes be a high price to pay following the decision to escape.

It has been more than three years since the 2020 election in Belarus and the subsequent protests following the falsified victory of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. During this period, thousands of people have faced political persecution and currently there are nearly 1,500 political prisoners in Belarus. People continue to be arrested for disagreeing with the regime, and since February 2022 for supporting Ukraine.

February 7, 2024 - Darya Grishchuk

Andrei Kureichyk’s stubborn insistence on freedom

The story of Andrei Kureichyk is a good reflection of the story of Belarus itself. The playwright turned political activist, who has been in exile since 2020, believes that the idea of an independent and free Belarus cannot be abandoned. His most recent project, Voices of the New Belarus, serve as testimony to this belief.

Once or twice a week, throughout April and May 2023, the Belarusian playwright, filmmaker and political activist Andrei Kureichyk walked down several flights of creaky stairs into the dusty basement of a building in New Haven, Connecticut. The basement, belonging to Yale University’s School of Drama, had been converted a number of years earlier into a recording studio, and Kureichyk was joined by an audio engineer in training as well as a different voice actor each visit. Some were student or professional actors; some were intellectuals or professors. They had been recruited for Kureichyk’s project Voices of the New Belarus, a multimedia adaption of his play of the same title.

February 7, 2024 - Daniel Edison

Why Putin is the product of Russian democracy

As we find ourselves less than two months away from the Russian presidential election, this analysis offers a timely and direct rebuttal that Putin’s downfall will arise from Russia’s democratisation. Instead, Russian democracy enabled Putin’s climb to power in the first place, while his protracted popularity constitutes a core factor that enables his regime to propagate at present.

The impending Russian presidential election, set to take place in a few months’ time in March 2024, constitutes an exceptional opportunity to reveal and discuss the discord in commentary on the current state of affairs in Russian politics. This cacophony in the analysis of Russian politics has emerged following the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

February 7, 2024 - George Hajipavli

From dignity to victory

Six months after Russia's invasion started, I gave birth to my child and breastfed her for the first time in a bomb shelter, to the sound of sirens. I moved from Ukraine to Poland with my baby and despite the joy of motherhood I had never felt so much loneliness and darkness as I did there, far from home, when my country was fighting the enemy, and I was not. But soon I joined the fight for victory.

It all started for me at night on Cathedral Square in Vilnius. There, there was not a single soul, snow was gently falling from the sky and a flash was shining dimly on the camera of the Lithuanian cameraman who was also my driver and guardian angel. An hour ago, I had flown in from Kyiv. The city was sleeping and the streets were quiet. Yet in a few minutes it would be six o'clock in Kyiv and I had to join the morning news – the first broadcast of the new Ukrainian TV channel Espreso, the launch of which our young team had been preparing all autumn. It was an important day for me, but even more important for Ukraine.

February 7, 2024 - Maria Gorska

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