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The trio of women against the first and so far only president of Belarus

Extraordinary voting for the presidential election, which will take place on August 4th-8th, has started in Belarus today. This will be followed by the main elections, which will take place on August 9th. Any citizen of the country can take part in the snap vote without explaining the reasons why he / she will not take part in the main voting in the polling stations. Such a procedure is dictated by the coronavirus situation.

 

Five candidates are running for the presidency, including Andrei Dimitri, Anna Kanopatskaya, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Sergei Cherepen, and th current head of state Alexander Lukashenko, who is running for a sixth term. The registration of two other candidates, Victor Babariko and Valeri Zepkalo, was rejected.

 

Tikhanovskaya – joint candidate of the opposition forces

 

The election campaign is accompanied by arrests of opposition politicians and activists, as well as unsanctioned protests. The other day, the largest rally in the history of modern Belarus was held in Grodno on August 1.

 

 

Deutsche Welle writes that according to various estimates, 7-10 thousand citizens came to hear the speech of presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. She became the main rival of Alexander Lukashenko, the first and only President of the Republic of Belarus since 1994. According to the BBC, she was sincere with the voters, noting that she would rather make cutlets at home than run for president. But she could not refuse the mission of challenging Lukashenko’s 26-year-old government.

 

Tikhanovskaya is a well-known Belarusian blogger, the wife of Sergei Tikhanovsky, who announced his candidacy for the presidency earlier. After filing several criminal cases against her husband, she announced that she was ready to run in the elections instead of her husband. “I found myself in this position out of love for my husband,” the female candidate stated at the July 17th press conference.

 

Svetlana, 37, who was forced to send her two children abroad for security reasons, has become a leading candidate in the opposition, a leading figure in expected change in Belarus.

 

Speaking in Grodno, Tikhanovskaya described herself as a symbol of change, promising to hold new presidential elections if she wins, in which all candidates, including those currently in prison, will be able to run.

 

Opposition figures include Veronica Zepkalo, the wife of unregistered candidate Valery Zepkalo, and Maria Kolesnikova, the manager of another unregistered candidate, Victor Babariko. They announced on July 19th that they would fight together. These three women are gathering record numbers across the country.

 

 

“They are not Margaret Thatcher”

 

Belarusian political scientist Valery Karbalich believes that the unification of women can bring additional dividends to Tikhanovskaya. First, the society likes them more easily, then the fact that women are fighting against the brutal force used by the authorities damages Lukashenko’s image. However, the political scientist noted that Tikhanovskaya considers herself a technical candidate who was nominated not to become president, but to show moral support to her husband, and this may lead the electorate to another candidate.

 

“They are not Margaret Thatcher, they are not women who have always been in politics, but they are very sincere,” Veronica Zepkalo explained the trio’s unique attractiveness in an interview in Moscow.

 

She noted that this time Lukashenko does not have public support, that is why he is so nervous. Women say they are sincere, but they get a lot of support from people who want change.

 

“Belarus needs them like fresh air, we need them as soon as possible,” she said in a telephone interview with the BBC.

 

Women do not have a political program. The only thing they are asking the people to do is vote for Svetlana to remove Lukashenko, after which Tikhanovskaya will hold transparent and fair elections and release all political prisoners. “I will fulfill my mission and then calmly resign,” she said during one of the rallies.

 

Despite the growing interest in women, Alexander Lukashenko, who has been elected in Belarus for more than three decades, still has 70 percent support, according to opinion polls. Opposition supporters are determined against possible violations.

 

RBC writes that when asked what they will do in case of mass violations, whether they are ready to call people to take to the streets, Tikhanovskaya answered: “We are ready to call on the people to defend their vote by any means chosen by every Belarusian.”

 

Before that, the trio unity had set five principles in its pre-election campaign: the first is to call on the voters not to boycott the elections, to go to the polls and vote. According to the next principle, voters should be informed about how to protect their vote from fraud, they are called to participate in the campaign of fair elections, to become an observer, to follow the participation and the counting of votes.

 

In the event of Tikhanovskaya’s possible victory, they agreed on two principles: the release of all prisoners imprisoned on political and economic grounds, and the right to have their cases reviewed by independent and honest courts. After that, double fair elections must be held, which can be attended by all alternative candidates, including Victor Babariko and Sergei Tikhanovsky, who are currently in solitary confinement.

 

Unregistered candidate Valery Zepkalo has sent a letter to the leaders of 32 countries urging them to support “free and fair” elections in Belarus.

 

“On behalf of all the people of Belarus, I ask for your support in establishing international control over the voting process, as well as in conducting elections for Belarusian citizens living in your country,” Zepkalo wrote.

 

Zepkalo, along with former banker Viktor Babariko’s blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, were considered Lukashenko’s main rivals, but none of them will run in the election.

 

Lukashenko. “A woman cannot become President of Belarus”

 

Before that, in addition to Lukashenko and Tikhanovskaya, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) registered former MP Anna Kanopatskaya, Andrei Dmitry, the leader of the “Tell the Truth” campaign, and Sergei Cherechnya, the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Belarus.

 

While women are holding large gatherings, President Alexander Lukashenko has stated several times in recent days that a woman cannot become President of Belarus.

 

“We must enshrine in the Constitution that a person who has not served in the army cannot run for the presidency. “What commander-in-chief if he does not know what the army is?” Lukashenko said on July 16th.

 

Earlier, he noted that the Constitution of Belarus is such that men can hardly carry that burden, and if they put that burden on a woman’s shoulders, poor women will fail.

 

In the meantime, a rally in solidarity with the Belarusian people was held in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, which was attended by former CoE MP Nicolas Bier, representing the Free Democratic Party, as well as German MP Viola von Cramon from the Greens. The participants of the action showed the video message of a Tikhanovskaya and the members of her staff addressed to the participants of the action.

 

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