recrimination and clashes between the opposition and the police.
Indeed Ria Novosti reports that protestors in Minsk attempted to storm the Belarusian Parliament building, provoking a ’fierce response’. An attempt perhaps to emulate confrontations in Kyrgyzstan earlier in the year, when troops opened fire on demonstrators and battles raged over the possession of government buildings.
Despite previous contrary reports from the Russian news agency, Ria Novosti now says that OSCE observers were not satisfied with the conduct of the election. The vote count, monitors say, was flawed and the police response to opposition rallies “heavy handed”.
That tallies with Dan Hamilton’s account on Conservative Home, although it must be said that his figure of 40,000 protestors is rather higher than most sources are quoting. Although almost all the reports agree that one of the election candidates, Vladimir Nekliaev, was last night rushed to hospital with head injuries, after taking part in a demonstration.
The pattern is fairly predictable. The election was conducted with some attempts to encourage competition, although it was by no means ’free and fair’. It emerged early on that the incumbent would win heavily (as expected) and opposition supporters took to the streets alleging violations. The police response is to make arrests and to attempt to disperse protesters with force.
We’ve seen similar trains of events, with minor variations, after other elections.
It will be interesting now to see what response, if any, is forthcoming from the EU and Russia. There is a suggestion that Moscow won’t rush to endorse the result. No doubt the way in which Lukashenko attempted to play Europe off against Russia during his last term will influence the decision. A fair degree of wariness is understandable on either side.
It must be said that while there isn't genuine democratic competition in Belarus, equally there's no credible opposition. Neither the protesters, nor the international community, will be able to point to a candidate who could have beaten Lukashenko, had the count conformed to OSCE's standards.