BOSTON, Massachusetts — Citizens in Belarus are calling for free and fair elections, and the United States has taken notice. Since his election in 1994, Alexander Lukashenko has remained president of Belarus for more than 25 years. The country has held regular elections, but they are widely recognized as fraudulent. Lukashenko’s rule has been characterized as authoritarian, which has led to Lukashenko’s unofficial title as “Europe’s last dictator.”
This past election in August 2020 was the final straw for many Belarusian citizens. Protests followed the election, with a notable “Freedom March” gathering an estimated 200,000 citizens. Many faced violence from the government and thousands of arrests took place because of the protests. Now, a resolution in the House of Representatives calls for new elections, an end to unjust actions against Belarusian citizens and unity between the U.S. and its allies in support of the people of Belarus.
The Election Crisis in Belarus
Since Lukashenko took power, several presidential elections in Belarus have been recognized as fraudulent by the nation’s citizens and other governments. The U.S. and its European allies declared the 2020 election fraudulent as well. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo specifically emphasized restrictions on ballot access, intimidation of opposition candidates, detention of press and more. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Lukashenko’s main opponent, had to flee to Lithuania after the election to protect her safety. She claims to have won at least an estimated 60% of the votes, though the government claims she won less than 20%. In addition, the Lukashenka regime has been accused of countless human rights abuses, both during and prior to the election.
H.Res.124 and What it Means
House Resolution 124 addresses Belarus’ democratic aspirations. It outlines the problem in Belarus and resolves that the U.S. House of Representatives stands with the citizens of Belarus. H.Res.124 states that the U.S. finds the 2020 Belarus election results to be fraudulent, and therefore does not recognize Lukashenka as the president of Belarus. It condemns the violence and human rights violations committed by Belarusian authorities against the people and calls for an investigation into those violations. Also, it calls for the release of members of the press and protestors who were wrongfully detained.
The resolution supports increasing funds available “for foreign assistance to Belarusian civil society groups” and calls on other countries to reconsider any funding that supports Lukashenka’s regime. Essentially, H.Res.124 supports the Belarusian citizens who are fighting for their democracy and proposes several plans of action to help them achieve a democratic society with free and fair elections.
The Resolution’s Sponsor and Where it Stands
Rep. William Keating, a Massachusetts Democrat, sponsored the resolution. Keating is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and shapes foreign policy. He is particularly involved with economic policy, conflicts in the Middle East and E.U. relations. Keating was also a major voice in Congress for supporting the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people. He is now a voice for the Belarusian people in their own fight for democracy.
On April 19, 2021, H.Res.124 had 31 cosponsors from more than 15 states. On April 20, the House passed the resolution. The legislative declaration affirms that the U.S. stands with Belarus’ democratic aspirations. This will be a significant step in amplifying the voices of Belarusian citizens and protecting global democratic interests.
– Samantha Silveira