sierakowski88_JOHN MACDOUGALLAFP via Getty Images_belarus opposition JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images

The Belarusian Opposition Is Growing Stronger

Despite its continuous brutal crackdown on dissent, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime has not quelled the opposition movement that emerged after the falsified presidential election in August 2020. On the contrary, in many ways, the democratic opposition has become a bigger threat to the regime.

WARSAW – As the war in Ukraine rages on, the stability of neighboring Belarus, which has been backing the Russian invasion, appears to be fracturing. Has Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression opened a Pandora’s box for a regime that is practically a remote wing of the Kremlin?

Recall that in Belarus’s last presidential election, in August 2020, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya almost certainly defeated the incumbent, Aleksandr Lukashenko, whose minions had dismissed his opponent as a “housewife.” When an upswell of support made it obvious that Tikhanovskaya was heading for victory, Lukashenko falsified the results, awarding himself over 80% of the vote – and inciting huge protests that lasted for months.

Lukashenko’s regime responded to the post-election demonstrations with terror and mass arrests, which led to even larger protests. Within days of the election, his grip had begun to weaken, with workers, public media, doctors, students, pensioners, and many others coming out publicly against the security services. The entire country went on strike, but Lukashenko, in power since 1994, held on by the skin of his teeth, owing to brutal interventions by loyal special forces, who were already drenched in innocent blood and therefore completely dependent on him. (Ultimately, Lukashenko chose not to test the army’s loyalty.)