This year’s election campaign is gaining momentum: lots of Belarusians are spending hours in queques to sign for the nomination of a person or persons who have revealed their presidential ambitions. Indeed, the people’s active involvement is indicative of their fatigue with the 26-year rule of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
In May, the Belarusian Central Election Commission registered 15 of 55 initiative groups. It means that over a dozen wannabe candidates got the green light for collecting signatures to be nominated for the 2020 presidential run. There are both establishment and moderate opposition politicians among them.
To officially become a presidential candidate, a seeker must get 100,000 signatures for his/her nomination. The initiative groups are to be engaged in collecting signatures from May, 21 to June, 19. The names of the candidates will be made public in mid July.
Former banker Viktar Babaryka, one of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s would-be competitors, has already reported that his team got the necessary number of signatures collected. Another contender, former head of the High-Tech Park Valery Tsapkala, can also boast of the significant army of his supporters.
On Sunday, thousands of people throughout the country lined up to put their signatures for ‘any on the list but for the incumbent president’. Especially large queues formed after popular vlogger Syarhei Tsikhanouski, a trustee and husband ofpresidential hopeful Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, had been detained in Hrodna on May, 29.
When reached by Belsat, many residents of Minsk who were waiting for their turn near Kamarouski Market expressed outrage over the authoities’ allegedly framing-up Tsikhanouski and initiating a criminal case against him. The interviewees also shared their opinions about the Belarusian leader’s longstanding presidency (watch the video above).
“I want to demand Tsikhanouski’s release! I haven’t slept a wink for two nights! This is absurd! I’ve got a law degree! I want to ask the Interior Ministry officials: Seriously?! You’re seriously going to press criminal charges just because Tsikhanouski got pushed?!”
“Terrible things’re happening in Belarus now. The police detained Syarhei Tsikhanouski, but that was a set-up, and now everyone’s aware of it. Why didn’t Lukashenka just invite the director Fyodor Bondarchuk to make an action movie out of it?! Why are they humiliating us and lying to us?”
“People are fed up with this lawlessness! Lukashenka takes it all, but the people get nothing! We’ve had enough. It’s time I gave up, but what about my children?! We’ve put up with him for 25 years – how much longer?! It’s high time he said: “I’m sorry. You’re sick of me. I haven’t done much. I haven’t done anything!”
While queueing, the Minskers were chanting ‘Freedom!’, ‘Time to go!’, Quit the job!’, ‘Set Syarhei free’. Many picketers showed slippers; according to one of them, slippers represent ‘the desire to kick out our wonderful president who’s been in power for over 25 years but doesn’t respect our nation’.
Meanwhile, Alyaksandr Lukashenka is apparently not going to leave the post. When talking to KGB Chairman Valery Vakulchyk in the wake of Sunday’s pickets, he warned all the ‘maidan-stricken’ that there will be no maidans in Belarus. He also urged law enforcers to prevent ‘various criminal gangs from wandering around the country with rolled up sleeves’. Later, the head of state called on siloviki to ensure ‘total order’ in Minsk.
On May 31, over 30 persons, including members of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s initiative group and civil activists, were detained or prevented from taking part in pre-election pickets, the human rights centre Viasna reports. Notably, a wannabe presidential candidate does not have to get permission from the authorities for holding such a picket.