“Spongers”, “removing children from single-parents”, “regional security”. Olga Karach, leader of the Belarusian civil campaign Nash Dom, calls them the “invisible” themes. According to her, these are issues that very much concern the citizens of the country but which did not receive the full attention of politicians during the presidential campaign.
The economy also remained in the background. At a roundtable in the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Sergey Kalyakin, the leader of the opposition party A Just World, remarked in response to a question by Europe Insight that even the president preferred not to accentuate this topic. Despite the existing problems (or because of them), it was the first time in many years that President Alexander Lukashenko did not report on the work accomplished over the previous years and outline plans for the upcoming term.
Thus, the important issues on the Belarusian presidential elections programmes which Europe Insight wrote about in a previous article just ended up unexpressed and unrealized. Stability was the main theme, overshadowing all other questions in light of the events in Ukraine.
“People did not discuss the elections in Belarus. It is not a vital factor,” said Sergey Kalyakin. “The elections took place completely quietly,” stated Deputy Dean at the Higher School of Economics Andrey Suzdaltsev, who has been a critic of the Lukashenko regime for many years. This time the opposition refrained not only from an aggressive campaign but also from any assertive contestation of the results or calls for people to protest. However, there is no common opinion as to whether or not the outcome was rigged.
“There was a mental consensus between the population and the president,” Professor Lev Krishtopovich of Belarusian State University explained at the roundtable. In his words, “the real clash” was in people’s minds between the abstract categories “fair” and “unfair”: in their understanding, rejecting Lukashenko is not “fair” in itself when there is no clear proposal for a viable alternative. And as of yet, there is no such alternative (more so in terms of a political platform than candidate per se).
On 16 October, the Central Election Commission of Belarus released the final results of the presidential elections, which were generally thought to be fully predictable. Alexander Lukashenko won with 83.5% of the vote, leaving his rivals behind in the dust. Tatyana Korotkevich was in second place (4.4%) followed by Sergei Gaidukevich (3.3%) and Nikolai Ulakhovich (1.7%). Turnout was at 87.2%.
There are some curious statistical details worth mentioning. First, more than a third of voters (over 2.5 million people) voted in advance. Second, 6.3% voted against all candidates. Third, the incumbent president garnered the least amount of votes in Minsk (65.7%), where 21.2% expressed opposition to all (including invalid ballots).