Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The official student newspaper of Methodist Ladies' College, est. 2020

Protests in Belarus and the Democratic and Republican Conventions: 24/8-30/8

Belarusian protests

This week, protests stepped up in the Belarusian capital of Minsk as over 100,000 Belarusians rallied against Europe’s last dictator – Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.

Lukashenko has maintained Belarus’ ties to the Soviet Union after its collapse in 1991, and heads the country’s authoritarian regime. Media and manufacturing are largely controlled by the government, opponents of the regime are often repressed and arrested, and elections are not free and fair. As the coronavirus swept the world in March this year, Lukashenko encouraged his citizens to visit the sauna at least twice a week and wash their hands with vodka in order to protect themselves from the virus.

During the lead up to the election on the 9th of August, a new candidate for the presidency, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, toured the country and interviewed Belarusians about Lukashenko’s oppressive government, posting the interviews on his YouTube channel. However, he was soon arrested and taken to prison at the end of May after Belarusian authorities claimed to have found $900,000 in his second home. Following her husband’s arrest, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya replaced Tsikhanouski as a presidential candidate and held rallies with record crowds of people attending, frustrated by the country’s lack of political change.

Despite this, the results of Belarus’ election in early August claimed that Lukashenko won 80.23% of the vote, with Tsikhanouskaya only having won 9.9%. This apparently landslide victory was so great that even pro-government Belarusians have questioned the legitimacy of these figures. Following the result, Tsikhanouskaya was forced to flee Belarus to bordering Lithuania for the safety of herself and her children. She has claimed to have received 60% to 70% of the vote and has appealed to Western nations to recognise her as the true leader of Belarus.

Rightly outraged at the evident tampering involved in the election results, Belarusians took to the streets and have continued to protest since. After three weeks of protests, some involving over 100,000 of the country’s 9.5 million residents. At least 7,000 have been arrested and hundreds have been beaten by state police. Many have posted pictures of their wounds on social media, which sparked new demonstrations, while friends and family of detainees gathered at detention centres, demanding information about their treatment.

The European Union has since announced they do not recognise Lukashenko as the true leader of Belarus.

Democratic and Republican conventions

The United States’ Democratic National Convention ended last week on the 20th of August, and the Republican National Convention was held this week from the 24th to the 27th of August. The purpose of these conventions to select the party’s nominees for president in the US election on the 3rd of November this year.

At the Democratic convention, delegates of the Democratic party formally appointed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as nominees for president and vice-president, respectively. Biden delivered a speech on light and darkness at the convention, drawing parallels between himself and Donald Trump. “United we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America,” said Biden in his speech. Harris, the United States’ first African-American and first Asian-American vice-presidential nominee in the country’s history, is a former attorney general of California and senator. In her speech, Harris spoke of the issues she would tackle if she were to become vice-president, including racial injustices.

During the Republican Convention, Donald Trump accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president, with Mike Pence continuing in his current role as vice-president if re-elected. In his 70-minute acceptance speech, Trump portrayed his opponent Biden as “weak” and an instrument of radical left-wing politics, characterising him as the “destroyer of American greatness”. He defended his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, even as the US surpassed 6 million confirmed cases and 185,000 deaths due to the virus.

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