Belarus Holds Fraudulent Parliamentary and Local Elections

On February 25, Belarus held fraudulent parliamentary elections aimed to falsely project Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s legitimacy to audiences both inside Belarus and on the global stage. The elections happened amidst mass political repression, curtailment of all human rights, and Russia’s gradual subversion of Belarusian sovereignty.

Background: the first election since the 2020 crisis

The last time Belarusians voted was four years ago during the 2020 presidential elections. Official results declared Lukashenka the winner despite evidence of large-scale electoral fraud. The real winner, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, was forced into exile.

This sparked peaceful mass protests that were met with systematic brutality from Belarusian authorities. Over the past three years, tens of thousands were incarcerated on politically motivated charges, with hundreds of thousands forced into exile. The regime closed down all independent media outlets and civil society groups.

The disputed 2020 elections also accelerated Russia’s effective annexation of Belarus. In exchange for President Putin’s essential political and economic backing, Lukashenka has increased Belarus’s military, political, and economic integration with Russia. In February 2022, Belarus enabled Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine through its territory. While according to a recent international poll, most Belarusians do not support Russia’s war, any form of dissent is persecuted. Lukashenka relies on Putin to remain in power regardless of the Belarusian public’s views.

Electoral fraud: why designate the results illegitimate

The parliamentary elections on February 25 followed an established pattern of curtailing political freedom and electoral fraud. The elections should be considered illegitimate based on the following aspects:

  1. Only government-appointed candidates were allowed to participate after the regime banned or forcibly dissolved opposition parties in 2020. The four parties running, Belaya Rus, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus, and the Republican Party of Labor and Justice, backed the regime.
  2. The members of the election commissions were also selected by the Belarusian authorities. Their names were kept a secret from the public.
  3. No credible international observers or Belarusian independent observers were granted access to the election.
  4. Candidates did not hold debates, campaign events, or public outreach. The campaign was restricted to state-controlled media appearances of the candidates.
  5. Taking photos of ballots, a technique used in the 2020 election to challenge official results, was strictly prohibited. Additional restrictions were placed on activists and journalists reporting on the electoral process.
  6. Turnout thresholds were removed to fabricate higher participation numbers.
  7. Belarusians who may have wished to express dissent face immense risks of losing their jobs, imprisonment, or other retaliation given the current climate of repression.
  8. Belarusians living abroad were denied the right to vote in the election.

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union, stated these elections exemplified the regime’s “continued senseless violation of human rights." The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly recognized Belarus as an “enabler” of Russia’s war against Ukraine while declaring Lukashenko’s regime to have “no democratic legitimacy.”

The government and parliament formed through this fraudulent electoral process in no way can represent the Belarusian people’s democratic preferences, ideas, or wishes. Any policies or actions undertaken by these bodies should rightly be seen as illegitimate attempts to govern without consent. Despite the theatrical display of an election, the Lukashenko regime’s authority remains entirely disconnected from the will of Belarusians.

Call to action: explicitly renounce the election

The United States must make a strong statement in solidarity with the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people. First, explicit non-recognition undermines the facade of legitimacy the Lukashenko regime is attempting to create. Second, non-recognition makes clear that any policies or actions taken by the government formed through these fraudulent elections should be considered illegitimate. Finally, support for Belarusian civil society provides moral backing to democratic reformers abroad.

On the occasion of another stolen election, we welcome the Department of State’s statement condemning sham Parliamentary and Local elections in Belarus. These sham elections warrant serious consequences, with the US leading the free world in standing against tyranny and repression in Belarus. We further urge the supporters of Belarusian freedom to raise their voices in explicit condemnation of these elections, leveraging social media and personal networks to amplify the call for free and fair elections in Belarus.