Alexander Lukashenko

All Eyes on Belarus after Elections


YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A leading Armenian political analyst believes that the establishment of democracy in Belarus will be of high significance to Armenia, a member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and Collective Security Treaty Organization that also include Belarus.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) on August 17 Richard Giragosian, the founding director of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center, said that in that case Armenia where a democratic change of government took place in 2018 will no longer feel “alone” in the post-Soviet groupings.

Giragosian thinks that the resignation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is only a matter of time. “It’s a question of days and even hours of what time he has left. But I don’t think the question is if, but [I think it’s] when he will leave power,” the political analyst said.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have been filling the streets of capital Minsk and other Belarusian cities protesting the official results of the August 9 presidential election that they believe have been rigged in favor of Lukashenko who has ruled Belarus since 1994.

Many observers in Yerevan have been drawing parallels between the unfolding events in Belarus and Armenia’s peaceful protests in 2018 that led to the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, who attempted to extend his rule after completing two five-year presidential terms.

“In a general sense like Armenia’s 2018 Velvet Revolution the movement in Belarus is everything except geopolitical. This is not about the European Union, it’s not about Russia or the West. It’s about a change of government in Belarus like in Armenia,” Giragosian said. “One key difference in what makes Belarus very different from Armenia is that in 2018 former President Serzh Sargsyan in many ways realized that his time had run out. And to his credit, he did not go out fighting. Lukashenko wants to go out with a battle.”

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The political analyst also drew some parallels between the crackdown on opposition supporters in Belarus and the crackdown on Armenia’s post-election protests in 2018 in which 10 people were killed. “[The] March 1, 2008 [crackdown] was replicated, repeated in Belarus with the overreaction by the security forces using torture, imprisonment of not only demonstrators, but even innocent by-standers,” he said.

Giragosian highlighted several important aspects of democratic change in Belarus for Armenia. “One is that Armenia is no longer vulnerable by being alone. We are no longer the only victory of non-violence and people power and a democracy [in post-Soviet groupings]. Belarus will hopefully join us. And second, what this also means is that the real loser here is not just Lukashenko, it’s [Azerbaijani President Ilham] Aliyev in Baku. Azerbaijan, after events in Belarus, is now much more isolated and vulnerable,” he said.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the leader of Armenia’s 2018 “Velvet Revolution,” sent congratulations to Lukashenko on his disputed reelection hours after Belarus’s Central Election Commission announced the preliminary results of the vote on August 10.

Only a handful of world leaders have congratulated Lukashenko on his disputed election win. Among them are Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s leader Xi Jinping. The European Union has said it does not recognize the results, and the United States has expressed deep concern over the election results and the unrest, with President Donald Trump describing the situation unfolding in Belarus as “terrible.”

Pashinyan’s move immediately drew criticism from his political opponents and some leading human rights activists who believe that the Armenian leader took a hasty step. Pashinyan himself refused to comment on the criticism, but other officials and pro-government lawmakers have defended his step.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on August 16 Secretary of Armenia’s Security Council Armen Grigoryan said that decisions like the one to congratulate Lukashenko are taken on the basis of a “comprehensive risk assessment.”

“Security-related and other major decisions have grounds, they are not born out of thin air,” Grigoryan said. “In general, a complete risk assessment is made, and a decision is taken in the interests of the Republic of Armenia.”

Giragosian also questions the timing of the congratulatory message that Pashinyan sent to Lukashenko.

“My problem and criticism is not necessarily with the message itself, but the timing of the message. It was sent much too quickly and it would have been much smarter for the Armenian government to delay, to wait. Also, to send a message later would be lost in the overwhelming responses of other bigger countries. But we are someone exposed for the hypocrisy of it. In other words, doesn’t that message to Lukashenko and that election in particular stand in contradiction to everything that the Armenian government is supposed to stand for? This is my problem. And it wasn’t smart diplomatically. What was the rush? It should have and could have been delayed to a more cautious approach,” the political analyst concluded.


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