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Belarus: Lukashenko says he'll run for president in 2025

February 25, 2024

The 69-year-old, who has ruled Belarus with an iron hand since 1994, said: "No responsible president would abandon his people." Lukashenko's contested 2020 election win triggered an unprecedented wave of protests.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in an interview with Russian state media on September 15, 2023
Belarus' closest ally is Russia and Lukashenko is considered to be completely dependent on Moscow and Russian President Vladimir PutinImage: Mikhail Metzel/Pool Sputnik Kremlin/AP/dpa

Belarus' longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko said he would run for president again in 2025, the country's state news agency BeITA reported Sunday.

"Tell them (the exiled opposition) that I'll run," Lukashenko told journalists at a polling station after voting in the country's parliamentary and local council elections.

"No responsible president would abandon his people who followed him into battle," the 69-year-old, who has ruled Belarus for nearly 30 years, added.

Sunday's election is the first since the contentious 2020 presidential vote that handed Lukashenko his sixth term in office.

The result was disputed by the country's opposition and sparked months of angry protests against his government.

Belarus heads to polls for parliamentary elections

How dependent is Lukashenko on Putin?

During the subsequent brutal repression, more than 35,000 people were arrested, thousands were beaten in police custody and hundreds of independent media outlets were shut down.

Human rights activists say more than 1,400 political prisoners remain in jail.

The European Union no longer recognizes Lukashenko as head of state.

Belarus' closest ally is Russia and Lukashenko is considered to be completely dependent on Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine in February 2022 and thousands of Wagner mercenaries — Russia's private army — are based in Belarus.

Parliamentary vote likely to cement Lukashenko's grip

Polls opened at 8 a.m. local time (0500 UTC/GMT) on Sunday for voters to elect 110 members of the national parliament and around 12,000 representatives of local assemblies.

Most candidates belong to the four officially registered parties: Belaya Rus, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Party of Labor and Justice.

Those parties all support Lukashenko's policies. About a dozen opposition parties were denied registration last year.

More than 40% of voters had cast ballots during early voting, which ran from Tuesday to Saturday, according to election officials.

Turnout stood at 65.4% by 4 p.m. on Sunday, meeting the 50% threshold needed for the vote to stand, the Belarusian Central Election Commission said.

An election billboard in front of an Orthodox church
The elction was the first in Belarus since the contentious 2020 vote that handed Lukashenko his sixth term in officeImage: DW

How free are elections in Belarus?

The elections are widely considered to be manipulated and officials did not invite election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Since 1995, not a single election in Belarus has been recognized as free and fair by the OSCE.

According to observers, Lukashenko primarily wants to use the vote to show that he is in full control after the protests three and a half years ago.

He warned that Belarusian authorities had "learned our lesson" since the unrest and there would be "no rebellions" during Sunday's election. 

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled abroad, emphasized on Thursday that the elections had nothing to do with democracy.

"It's a farce, it's a show, it's a circus, but it's not a choice," she said, calling for an election boycott.

mm/sri (AP, dpa, Reuters)