Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт

Changes in Belarus are truly needed, MEPs say

A group of members of the European Parliament issued a statement on the situation in Belarus, calling on the current government to “listen to the voice of society, which demands change.”

“Events in Belarus during recent weeks have demonstrated that citizens of Belarus want change. This is confirmed also by objective polls – people want a change in government, a change in policies. With 26 years of A. Lukashenko rule in a country hit by the pandemic and economic hardships, people want a real change – this is a clear signal sent by civil society to A. Lukashenko and to friends of Belarus in Europe,” the statement reads.

The MEPs suggest that changes can mean a change of the ruling leadership, or they can be policy changes implemented by those in power.

“History of world politics gives us several examples, where long-term leaders wisely listened to peacefully expressed demands for change of their citizens, and they themselves initiated a radical shift in their policy agenda to meet those demands. Belarus is now in a situation where both alternative scenarios are possible,” they say.

The MEPs note the high level of support for alternative presidential candidates.

“On August 9, the Belarusian people can make a truly strategic choice: to continue as before, or to choose a path of wise changes. Both decisions of the Belarusian people would be equally legitimate and respected, on the condition that they are taken during free and fair elections,” the appeal said.

According to the authors, the following steps should be taken for President Lukashenka to demonstrate his willingness to listen to his citizens:

  • to stop harassment and persecution of politicians, civic and opposition activists, potential Presidential candidates, including Siarhei Tsikhanouski and Viktar Babaryka, and to release those in custody, including Pavel Seviarynets and others;
  • to allow registration of candidates who collected the necessary number of supporting signatures without any deliberate administrative hindrance;
  • to ensure equal campaigning conditions, including in media, for all candidates;
  • to guarantee a free, fair and transparent election process;
  • to commit publicly to accept the results of the elections whatever the outcome;
  • finally, to promise that if he wins the presidential elections, he will ensure free and democratic parliamentary elections.

“Such position of A. Lukashenko would allow for hope, that a policy change in Belarus is possible without a change of personalities in power. This would also create conditions for the EU to open doors for Belarus to enjoy additional benefits through EU Eastern Partnership cooperation and support, which are urgently needed for Belarus in these unprecedented times when the country suffers from the pandemic and its economic fallout,” the MEPs said.

If Lukashenka once again ignores the “voice of his fellow citizens”, the MEPs intend to do their “utmost to ensure that the democratic community responds with the most robust reaction vis-a-vis Lukashenka personally, his political entourage and the repressive structures.”

“Repressions, intimidation and arrests (including of members of the democratic opposition) are no way to conduct an election, or to bring a country together, but merely cynical steps designed to hold on to power at all costs. A. Lukashenka must understand that the EU will not tolerate such acts and that they should and will have consequences, including possible targeted sanctions on groups, individuals and entities, and will have an impact on EU decisions regarding the financial assistance to Belarus, including the resilience package,” the statement said.

The appeal was signed by MEPs Mr Andrius Kubilius, Ms Anna Fotyga, Mr Michael Gahler, Mr Andrzej Witold Halicki, Ms Sandra Kalniete, Ms Miriam Lexmann, Mr Siegfried Muresan, Mr Radosław Sikorski, and Ms Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel.