Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko is expected to seek a sixth term in office after winning pro-Lukashenko parties dominated Sunday’s parliamentary election.
Results from Sunday’s parliamentary election in Belarus show that President Alexander Lukashenko will maintain his hold on power, with opposition parties failing to win a seat over the weekend as results were announced on Monday.
The results published on Monday means that Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a quarter of a century ago, will maintain his grip on power. On Sunday, Lukashenko also announced that he will run for presidential elections in 2020 for the sixth time since the first one was held in 1994.
The sexagenarian Lukashenko in recent years has attempted to mend ties with other European countries to balance Russia’s influence in the country.
Some in Belarus fear that Russia is seeking to integrate Belarus into the country, however, Sunday’s vote indicates that Lukashenko is not willing to liberalise his country as a price for staving off Moscow.
The turnout on Sunday’s election stood at 77 percent with the opposition winning no seats after unexpectedly winning two seats in the 2016 parliamentary elections.
"These elections have demonstrated an overall lack of respect for democratic commitments," said Margareta Cederfelt from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) adding that "parliamentary elections are in danger of becoming a formality."
The Belarusian Press Agency, however, rejected the findings of the OSCE stating: “We regret that the OSCE mission, as in previous years, has failed to completely depart from politicised assessments and conclusions. We also believe that a personal bias and a subjective approach should not be at the heart of conclusions and assessments by international observers.”
Relations with Russia
In September of this year, Belarus and the US announced that they planned to exchange ambassadors after a 10-year break largely due to the two countries being at odds over the political trajectory of Belarus.
The warming of relations comes against a backdrop of increasing differences between Minsk and its more powerful neighbour Russia.
Belarus has attempted to have a balanced relationship with Russia, which supplies most of the country’s energy needs, while not completely falling under its influence.
Minsk, for instance, was hesitant when Russia annexed Crimea, a move that it did not publicly endorse, which was seen by analysts as a slight towards Russia.
Belarus’ economy remains inextricably intertwined with that of Russia and while Lukashenko has attempted to diversify the economy, this has met with limited success.
Russian President Vladimir Putin for his part has attempted to leverage this economic clout over the country by seeking an ever closer union between the two.
Belarus was formerly part of the Soviet Union, becoming independent in 1991. While only eight percent of the population is Russian, the vast majority of Belarusians speak Russian in their day-to-day lives with the Russian language being one of the official state languages.