Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian dictator, lost the presidential election this past Sunday: all the independent exit polls indicate he won no more than 25-30% of the vote. As this is consistent with independent opinion polls, no doubt remains that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is now the legitimate president of Belarus.
After polls had closed, Lukashenko’s lieutenants announced that he received 80% of the vote according to their “exit polls.” The lie was too grotesque even for a post-Soviet dictator. People started taking to the streets. By nightfall all the major cities saw huge crowds in the streets. In the capital, Minsk, protesters have flooded the city center. Lukashenko’s police have fired at the crowd.
The dictator may survive to live another day but in a slightly longer run, he’s a dead man. Firing at protesters has made him illegitimate even in the eyes of former supporters – even though Belarusians have a reputation for being too patient for their own good.
The sheer number of people protesting in Minsk and across the country is amazing. Independent journalists in Belarus have been covering the protests – the revolution – exceptionally well, putting to shame their Western colleagues. Telegram channels are their preferred medium: Telegram is virtually unblockable, as Russia’s experience has shown. I’m keeping an eye on @belamova and @nexta_live.