Elections - December 2010
Lukashenka had served as president of Belarus since 1994.
According to a June 2006 Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Politycal Studies [IISEPS] survey, Lukashenko maintained a high support rating, with 55 percent of those polled claiming they would vote for Lukashenko again should elections be held tomorrow. His closest competitor, opposition coalition candidate Aleksandr Milinkevich, came in a distant second with only 13 percent. The majority of respondents (70 percent) believed there should be a dialogue between the opposition and GOB, but 41 percent blamed the opposition and West for the lack of dialogue and only 30 percent blame the authorities. According to the surveys, 89 percent of those polled get their news from Belarusian TV and less than 5 percent listen to foreign radio broadcasts from Poland and Lithuania. Only 14 percent of respondents use the internet with much frequency.
Independent pollster Oleg Manayev presented post the results of the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Politycal Studies [IISEPS] survey conducted 5-15 May 2007. Trust in President Lukashenko remains high [56.9%], although the public distrusts several institutions headed by his appointees. Independent media faired very well [50.6%] given the limited number of people with regular access to unofficial new sources. Political parties of all stripes were among the least trusted institutions - though pro-government parties ranked higher [30.1%] than opposition political parties [19.9%]. Only 29.6 percent of those surveyed answered no when asked whether there should be an opposition. However, over two-thirds of respondents would not pick a current politician if asked to vote for a leader of the United Democratic Forces.
The 2010 presidential elections were the latest in a series of elections judged as flawed by the international community, including referendums in 1996 and 2006, parliamentary elections in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and presidential elections in 2001 and 2006. Following the 2006 presidential election, which the OSCE's election observation mission called the elections "severely flawed due to the arbitrary use of state power and restrictions on basic rights", the opposition held a number of post-election demonstrations. Security forces used violence to break up the demonstrations and the EU imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on individuals, including Lukashenko, responsible for electoral fraud and the subsequent crackdown on civil society.
The December 2010 Presidential election was accompanied by a violent crackdown by riot police on a peaceful protest in Minsk. At the protest more than 700 people were arrested, including six of the Presidential candidates. Around 600 were imprisoned for 15 days. In the months following the protest masses of homes and offices of people with connections to the independent media, civil society and the opposition were raided. 43 people, including five presidential candidates, were charged with organising or taking part in “mass riots”, and over 30 were sentenced to jail terms of between two and six years. Some detainees made credible allegations of torture and others of ill-treatment.
Most of the president's opponents and at least one opposition candidate in the 2010 polls were arrested shortly after polls closed, while police detained hundreds of opposition supporters after launching a violent crackdown on thousands of street protesters in Minsk. Former candidate Nikolai Statkevich spent nearly five years in prison before Lukashenko unexpectedly ordered his release in August 2015, along with five other political prisoners.
In June 2011 weekly “silent protests” began, organised through a group on a social media website. People congregated in Minsk, and in other cities, in silent protest against the regime. The authorities responded with repression and intimidation, between 8 June and 6 July 2011 there were about 1730 arrests. Many of these arrests were arbitrary and some led to short prison terms. In July 2011 the authorities initiated legislative amendments to effectively criminalise these “silent protests”. It expands the definition of picketing to include “inaction in a public place”. Unsanctioned pickets are subject to penalties.
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