Is the end of the 26-year rule of head of state Alexander Lukashenko approaching? After the election in Belarus, there were demonstrations across the country. The police react brutally.
Minsk (dpa) - During nationwide protests after the presidential election in Belarus, tens of thousands of people took to the streets against election fraud. There were bloody clashes with the police on Monday night. There were many injured.
The police cracked down on peaceful demonstrators. In the capital Minsk, the security forces used water cannons, rubber bullets and stun grenades. The ex-Soviet republic has never seen such protests. The people's hopes now rest on the opposition candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaya.
According to forecasts by state pollsters, the 37-year-old is said to have lost the election overshadowed by allegations of manipulation - but head of state Alexander Lukashenko won her. Even hours after the polling stations closed, the election commission did not publish any initial official results. There was only talk of a victory by Lukashenko. The website of the election control was initially not available - like many other websites in Belarus.
Tichanowskaja did not want to admit her defeat: "There can be no recognition of such an election result," said spokeswoman Anna Krasulina of the German press agency. It was to be expected that the state forecasts would assign Lukashenko around 80 percent of the vote. "That is far from any reality." There was no reaction from Lukashenko after the vote.
Instead, a crisis team met in the Interior Ministry. The authorities said the situation was under control, according to state media. They did not initially disclose how many people were arrested. The human rights organization Wesna initially spoke of more than 50 arrests in Minsk alone. Nationwide it should have been 120. That number should continue to rise.
According to observers, up to 100,000 people are said to have participated in the demonstrations in the capital. Videos could be seen, for example, how protesters built barricades out of dumpsters. Crowds of people moved through the streets - also in other cities in the country. Videos of how police officers brutally beat people were repeatedly published on social networks. Protesters also attacked police officers to prevent arrests. There were many pictures of people covered in blood.
Tichanovskaya called on the security forces to refrain from using force during the night. "I want to remind the police and the military that they are part of the people," she said, according to her campaign staff. She appealed to her followers to refrain from provocations. "I know that the people of Belarus will wake up in a new country tomorrow," said Tichanovskaya.
In individual places there were also the first victory celebrations for the opposition candidate. The people called on the uniformed men to bow to the will of the electorate and join the people. In individual villages, the police were barely able to resist the crowds, reported opposition-related portals on the Internet, which temporarily did not work nationwide.
It was initially not clear when the official election results would be available. Individual local election commissions appeared in front of the crowds in the evening and announced results that President Lukashenko had suffered a heavy defeat. In part, Tichanovskaya came to between 80 to 90 percent of the vote.
In front of the polling stations on Sunday long queues of a few hundred meters had formed. This has never happened in the ex-Soviet republic. According to the electoral commission, 84 percent of those eligible to vote voted. There were many arrests on election day and in the weeks before that. Lukashenko, who is considered the "last dictator in Europe", had threatened the use of the military to maintain his power. The death penalty is still being carried out in Belarus.
Tichanowskaja's goal in the election campaign was to win the vote, to release all political prisoners as president and then to call free elections. She is running to replace her husband Sergei Tichanowski. Like the former bank boss Viktor Babariko, the blogger, who is critical of the government, is in custody for allegations that are considered to be politically staged.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200810-99-105425 / 2