Opinion: The struggle for democracy persists in Europe, not just the Middle East

In December last year, Alyaksandr Lukashenka was re-elected president of Belarus, with 79.7% of the vote in elections deemed to fall massively short of OSCE standards. Under his leadership, the Belarusian regime systematically violates basic liberties. The past week has seen a worsening of the situation, with the oppressive regime using unjustifiable violence against protesters seeking democracy and freedom.

Despite a ban on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, in an attempt to try and stifle the protests, the capital Minsk has seen huge anti-Lukashenka demonstrations. The response of the Belarusian Government has been appalling. Hundreds of peaceful protesters have been arrested, and journalists have witnessed protesters being beaten as part of a crackdown across the country.

The more recent examples of “clapping” protesters being arrested, and previous brutal oppression of those opposed to the regime by, for example, the arrest of opposition candidates following the election, really highlight the severity of the situation. The actions being taken by the Governments militia mean that the safety of young liberal protesters is at serious risk.

The treatment of protesters is of great concern. The highly regarded Presidential candidate, Andrei Sannikov was recently arrested, after being thuggishly attacked by members of the regime – causing critical wounds. It has become clear that his medical requirements are not being met, made evident by his lawyer being threatened with disbarment when raising the issue in court. Amnesty international are campaigning for his release along with that of many other political campaigners and journalists.

It has become easy in recent weeks to focus on the amazing events of the Arab Spring and their struggle for liberty. However there is a nation on Europe’s doorstep craving the same rights and freedoms we enjoy. Prisoners such as Sannikov have perhaps not been forgotten, but their struggles put on the back burner, within the current international climate. International efforts to free these prisoners and protect protesters from the regime have proved weak and ineffective. Despite open condemnation from the EU earlier this year, Lukashenka has begun to come down harder on political protesters. His authoritarian regime appears to be under the international radar. For political protesters, many of whom are young, it means they have no real protection.

However the international community has a real chance to make amends and protect the citizens of Belarus. The Belarusian economy has fallen into turmoil, with rising unemployment and a worthless currency. The regime wants a loan from the IMF of $8bn over the next 5 years. The IMF should allow this loan to go ahead. If certain conditions to allow greater economic freedoms in Belarus come with this loan then Lukashenka’s rule will be undermined. Greater geographical movement, in particular student visas will open up the country to the west.

The international community must put pressure on the IMF to include the release of certain political prisoners, such as Sannikov. Doing so would undermine the regime, and guarantee the safety of liberal campaigners across the country. The international community has an opportunity to rid the world of a brutal dictator – this should not be passed up.

Read more by or more about , , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Not sure this is an opportunity to get rid of Lukashenko, but I think it right to put pressure on his regime.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGeoff Reid 17th Dec - 12:29pm
    Fair comment David. But I still remember the conference apparently unperturbed by the speech. I am sure that Harold Wilson’s action was in the best...
  • User Avatarpaul barker 17th Dec - 12:27pm
    On the subject of Polls, an average of the last 50 gives us 9%, assuming that we are still going up that probably means that...
  • User Avatarexpats 17th Dec - 12:22pm
    jayne mansfield 16th Dec '18 - 7:10pm................I take the poll results with a very large pinch of salt. Liberal Democrats have had two years to...
  • User AvatarRoland 17th Dec - 12:04pm
    @Glenn - As I said I’m part Jewish, I’m atheist and I don’t do the essentially Catholic BC/AD thing. Calendars and Clocks, we forget just...
  • User AvatarRoger Lake 17th Dec - 12:00pm
    Joe B -- many many thanks for your swift help!
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 17th Dec - 11:52am
    @ JoeB, "When most taxes are collected regionally, the need for regional distribution goes away." No it doesn't. Taxes collected by the euro using countries...