Belarus erupts in protest after opposition alleges rigged election

  • Police deployed rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons against protesters in the capital of Belarus on Sunday.
  • The country's long-time ruler, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed just under 80% of the vote in an election widely viewed by the public as rigged.
  • Following the vote, in which the leading opposition candidate scored just single digits, thousands took to the streets of Minsk, Reuters reported.
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Police deployed rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons against protesters in the capital of Belarus on Sunday after the country's long-time ruler, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed just under 80% of the vote in an election widely viewed by the public as rigged.

Following the vote, in which the leading opposition candidate scored just single digits, thousands took to the streets of Minsk, Reuters reported.

Mass protests are exceedingly rare in the Eastern European nation, which the authoritarian Lukashenko has led since 1994; foreign election observers have been barred since 1995. But in the lead-up to Sunday's election, tens of thousands of people attended rallies led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old presidential candidate whose campaign manager was detained on Saturday, the BBC reported.

"I'd like to ask the police and troops to remember that they are part of the people. I ask my voters to prevent provocations," Tikhanovskaya said Sunday, per Reuters. "Please stop the violence."

Tikhanovskaya's campaign, launched after her popular husband was arrested and barred from running, benefitted from a lagging economy and anger over the government's response to COVID-19.

Prior to voting, Belarusian authorities responded to the mass protests with repression, according to Amnesty International.

"They are deliberately targeting women involved in politics or female family members of political activists, including with open discrimination and threats of sexual violence," Marie Struthers, the human rights group's Eastern Europe and Central Asia director, said in a statement.

Lukashenko, on Sunday, dismissed such criticism.

"To be honest, we have been soft so far," he said, according to The New York Times.

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