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Can Lukashenko count on some kind of recognition after 2025 if he decides to run in the "elections"?

Pavel Latushka: Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management, Ambassador

March 5-17 this year, elections will be held in Russia, in which, naturally, Putin will participate. It is beyond doubt that Putin will be re-elected for a new term - I don't think anyone seriously doubts this. There will likely be falsification, although we are inclined to believe that in today's Russia, unfortunately, Putin would have been elected even without it.

But that is not the topic of our discussion - there is already enough analysis of the Russian elections. As a Belarusian politician, I am puzzled by the parallels being drawn with Belarus in this context. No, we are not inclined to consider Belarus in isolation, as often happens when the geopolitical context is ignored. Naturally, political processes in Russia, unfortunately, have a significant impact on our country, which Lukashenko has placed in a deep and dangerous dependence.

However, the electoral situations in Russia and Belarus are different. In the discussions we are increasingly seeing, whether the results of the elections in Russia will be recognized by the democratic world or not, and whether Putin will lose international recognition, as was the case with Lukashenko - in relation to the latter, for some reason, the principle of the electoral cycle is being applied again. As if his current illegitimacy could either persist or be nullified as a result of the elections. And it is suggested that this may also depend on how the world reacts to the elections in Russia. But such a connection to the Russian elections and drawing parallels is inappropriate.

Photo: TASS
Photo: TASS

Lukashenko's case in terms of illegitimacy can be considered, to some extent, ordinary - disregarding, of course, all the terror and crimes he committed during the 2020 campaign and continues to commit to this day.

Essentially, in 2020, Belarus witnessed an election overturned (which, by the way, has never happened in Russia). And when we say "overturning election," we certainly do not mean that the 2020 elections met international standards, were free, democratic, and fairly competitive. Absolutely not. From the beginning, they were elections with significant reservations since they took place in an authoritarian state, already amidst growing repression since the spring. By that time, Lukashenko's main competitors had already been imprisoned, political prisoners reappeared in prisons, and the regime had begun escalating violence against civilians who were attempting to defend their rights through legal means.

However, the democratic forces and civil society were still able to achieve two very important things: 

  1. Creating alternative election monitoring tools such as the Golos and Zubr platforms. These platforms played a crucial role in exposing massive and blatant falsifications and ensuring an accurate vote count.

  2. Despite the regime's preemptive imprisonment of Lukashenko's key competitors, their campaign headquarters managed to unite and put forward a single candidate, Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya.

Although this occurred almost at the last moment, a majority of Belarusian citizens, mobilized and committed to democratic change, actively participated in the campaign. Tsikhanovskaya swiftly gathered a sufficient number of signatures and ultimately won the election against Lukashenko. The legitimacy of her victory was substantiated by alternative election monitoring platforms and vote counting.


As a result, democratic countries not only rejected the election results manipulated by the Lukashenko regime but also recognized the legitimacy of Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya, thus refusing to recognize Alexander Lukashenko. Subsequently, Lukashenko further exacerbated his situation by unleashing brutal and widespread repressions, hijacking a plane, creating a migration crisis, and ultimately becoming an accomplice in Russia's war against Ukraine.

However, returning to the matter of legitimacy and recognition, Lukashenko has lost them due to his defeat in the elections. He will be unable to restore them through a new electoral cycle since, starting from 2020, Lukashenko, who seized power by force, is nothing more than a usurper lacking the right to conduct any electoral campaigns.

Photo: picture-alliance/Ritzau Scanpix/E. Helms
Photo: picture-alliance/Ritzau Scanpix/E. Helms

Furthermore, Lukashenko is currently facing a Communication at the International Criminal Court in The Hague prepared by the team of the National Anti-Crisis Management under Article 15 of the Rome Statute. The Communication pertains to the illegal deportation or transfer of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied territories to Belarus. Consequently, Lukashenko also faces the possibility of being recognized as a war criminal with an arrest warrant from the ICC before the 2025 elections.

This may be the only form of recognition he can expect.

However, it should be understood that we will not simply stop at this point and allow Lukashenko to continue his "celebration" and the ritual of "re-election" undisturbed. Democratic forces, including the National Anti-Crisis Management, are already engaging in consultations with the goal of developing a unified campaign strategy for the 2025 “elections”.

Unlike the so-called "Single Voting Day," which we advised ignoring in order to conserve the mobilization potential of Belarusian society, since it held no genuine interest for the people as demonstrated by their absence at polling stations, we plan to take a different approach in 2025. It is still too early to provide specific details, but I can affirm that our team envisions an active and unconventional campaign that will likely surprise not only the Lukashenko regime but also many others.



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