The campaigns of three opposition figures involved in Belarus’s upcoming presidential election have issued a joint statement on cooperation in the controversial poll.
The campaigns of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, former Belgazprombank head Viktar Babaryka, and prominent businessman Valer Tsapkala on June 16 announced a joint program comprising five points.
The program includes urging Belarusians to vote in the August 9 election, a call for the release of all “political and economic prisoners” and new trials for each of them, a pledge to hold “an honest repeat election after August 9,” and a pledge to cooperate on a program to combat electoral fraud and to monitor the presidential poll.
On July 14, the Central Election Commission registered five candidates for the presidential poll, including Tsikhanouskaya and incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Babaryka, who was viewed as a potential rival to Lukashenka, was denied registration and subsequently jailed on suspicion of money laundering, bribery, and tax evasion. He denies the charges and says they are politically motivated. The government took over Belgazprombank on June 15.
Amnesty International has proclaimed Babaryka and his son, Eduard, who was arrested with his father on June 18, to be prisoners of conscience.
Tsapkala’s attempt to register was foiled after election officials disqualified at least 38,000 of the signatures he had submitted in support of his candidacy.
After the registrations were announced, a wave of protests rocked the country and hundreds of people have been detained.
Lukashenka, who has ruled the country since 1994, is currently serving his fifth term as president. Belarus abolished presidential term limits in 2004.
The 65-year-old Belarusian leader on July 15 rejected Western criticism of the government’s violent dispersal of the demonstrations and the disqualification of candidates.
“We don’t want anyone to tell us how to live,” he said during a meeting in the eastern city of Vitsebsk.