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Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate for president, greets people waving old Belarus flags Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate for president, greets people waving old Belarus flags at a rally in Brest, Belarus, Aug. 2, 2020 (AP photo by Sergei Grits)

‘It’s Not Normal for Belarus.’ Lukashenko Faces Growing Pre-Election Protests

Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020

KYIV, Ukraine—For nearly three decades, President Alexander Lukashenko has relied on a mix of vote-rigging, obedient state media and pure coercion to retain power in Belarus through “a series of unfair contests,” according to democracy watchdog Freedom House. This week’s presidential election will be no different. Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994, is virtually guaranteed to sweep the polls.

But the mustachioed strongman will have few opportunities to rest on his laurels, experts say. A deteriorating economic situation and his mishandling of the coronavirus crisis have fueled discontent in recent months, while a newly unified opposition movement has sprung up to harness that anger. That means winning the Aug. 9 election may only be the easy part. “Lukashenko is facing so many challenges at the same time,” says Minsk-based independent journalist Hanna Liubakova. “And he cannot really find an answer.” ...

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