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By Inger Furholt
Staff reporter

Democracy is supposed to be a political system where the people elect their representatives, and the majority rules, but in some countries it has became something completely different.

On July 27, 1990 Belarus declared its national sovereignty, as the first step away from the Soviet Union and towards independence. On Aug. 25, 1991,  it was renamed the Republic of Belarus. In 1994, the country had its first election, which was when Alexander Lukashenko was elected the president of Belarus for the first time. Lukashenko was re-elected in 2001, 2006, and now also in 2010, through what many call undemocratic and flawed ways.

“Basically, before the first presidential elections and what followed them, Belarus really had a relatively brief period of democracy. From 1995 and on, Belarus launched into authoritarianism,” said Aliaksandr Paharely, Belarusian scholar.

On Dec. 19, 2010 in Minsk, Belarus, a quiet protest for a fair election turned into what is now called “Bloody Sunday” as police officers and KGB agents beat innocent people, arrested over 600 protesters, journalists, and also other presidential candidates who were present at the protest.

Paharely said that even before the election he feared that this year would not be any different from the elections in previous years. He did not, however, expect this scale of government violence that happened during the peaceful protest for fair elections.

“I kept in touch with my friends and I was reading the news from Belarus every day, so I was not taken by surprise by these events because I was watching the unfolding and the whole situation,” said Paharely. “I had these fears in mind and I was not surprised, but I was shocked by the reaction and by the scale of violence that was used by the authorities, it was completely unjustified.”

Paharely first learned of the violent happenings over internet news. Afterward he got to talk to friends who had been there, some whom ended up getting arrested. He also said that what his friends participated in what was a peaceful demonstration, which ended badly. So many people were arrested that there was not even room for everyone in the prisons.
Even though there were other candidates than Alexander Lukashenko running for the presidency many believe that they did not have a chance, as the results of the election was already as clear as in previous years.

“It becomes more and more apparent that these candidates were cynically used and manipulated by current regime in order to justify these elections,” said Paharely. “There was no hope for them to be elected as president, because from the start these presidential campaigns are to a very large extent a reminiscent of a force.”

If you want to learn more from Paharely about Belarus listen to the audio story below.

Inger Furholt is a senior majoring in journalism. You may e-mail her at inger.furholt@sckans.edu.