April 23, 2024

Amid a number of high-stakes elections to be held around the world this year, the East European nation of Belarus on Sunday offered an alternative to the unpredictability of democracy: a vote for Parliament without a single candidate critical of the country’s despotic leader.

Opposition parties have all been banned — belonging to one is a crime — and the four approved parties taking part in the election have competed only to outdo each other in their displays of unwavering loyalty to the country’s leader, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for 30 years.

For the government, the election on Sunday — the first since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which neighbors Belarus to the south — is important as an opportunity to show Moscow, its ally, that it has snuffed out all domestic opposition and survived economic and other strains imposed by the war. Russia, which has in the past had doubts about Mr. Lukashenko’s durability and reliability, launched its invasion in February 2022 in part from Belarusian territory.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, an exiled opponent of Mr. Lukashenko, said: “These so-called elections are nothing more than a circus show. It’s not even entertaining.”

The Belarusian election is similar in format and predictability to a vote next month in Russia intended to anoint Mr. Putin for a fifth term in the Kremlin.

The European Union, which for years held out hope that Belarus, sandwiched between Russia and Poland, could be tugged out of the Kremlin’s orbit, has dismissed the whole process as a sham. The bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, last week denounced Mr. Lukashenko’s “continued senseless violation of human rights and unprecedented level of repression ahead of the upcoming elections. Those responsible will be held to account.”

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