Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Democracy
10 August 2020

How mass post-election protests threaten Belarus’s regime

The real challenge for the opposition will be how Lukashenko's government responds to continued unrest. 

By Ido Vock

Massive protests have broken out across Belarus after official results for Sunday’s contested presidential elections returned the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, with a familiar 80 percent of the vote.

The preliminary results of the elections, according to the central election committee, grant Lukashenko 80.2 per cent of the vote and return him for his sixth term in office since 1994. His challenger, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, is credited with 9.9 per cent. However, independent exit polls conducted outside polling stations abroad, one of the few reliable indicators of actual voting patterns given the difficulty of conducting genuine polling inside Belarus, showed an almost perfectly reversed result: 86 per cent for Tikhanovskaya, 4 per cent for Lukashenko, RFE/RL reported.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Around 40 per cent of voters voted early, the country’s central election commission said. These votes were the regime’s opportunity for ballot stuffing, but long lines of actual voters on Sunday pushed turnout in some polling stations to above 100 per cent, according to the independent news site

Opposition Telegram channels were flooded with photos of results from polling stations which, reportedly, did not falsify their results, in every case resulting in landslide victories for Tikhanovskaya. In ward 70 of the Frunzensky neighbourhood in Minsk, for instance, Lukashenko was credited with 255 votes, and Tikhanovskaya with 1989 votes.

Protestors began gathering in their thousands in central Minsk and around the country at the close of voting on Sunday at 8pm. Videos from the scene showed them being met with brutal police violence, including stun grenades, beatings, and in one case a truck driving into demonstrators. In other regions, there were reports of riot police putting down their shields and refusing to suppress protests.

On Monday morning Reuters reported that at least one person had been killed and 120 protesters had been detained during the unrest, citing the Spring 96 human rights group.

Protests are almost certain to last through the week and will likely be met with escalating violence from the regime. The anger is not confined to Minsk, which points to a problem for the security forces, which may become overstretched if demonstrators continue to turn out in significant numbers in the regions as well as the capital.

Tikhanovskaya has called on the police and armed forces to refuse to carry out “illegal orders”. The regime has gambled on being able to rely on the loyalty of the security forces, but this could prove a miscalculation, especially if the violence ramps up.

As Alexander Feduta, a former advisor to Lukashenko, told Felix Light and I last week: “If Lukashenko orders the security forces to shoot protestors in the street, then he’ll be out of office in three days. Can anyone imagine that the men of this country would tolerate that?”

Sunday was just the beginning of the opposition’s challenge to Lukashenko; the official result of the elections was never in doubt. The real question is how Lukashenko will respond to the protests challenging the results.

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action