New pro-Lukashenko party set up as Belarus falls seven places in the Democracy Index to 153

New pro-Lukashenko party set up as Belarus falls seven places in the Democracy Index to 153
Belarus' President Lukashenko has set up a new pro-regime party as part of an overhaul of the electoral system that tightens his already iron grip on the system further. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews February 9, 2023

A new pro-Lukashenko party was established in Belarus as the country fell a further seven places in the latest EIU Democracy index.

The pro-regime "Belaya Rus" political party was established and launched on February 7 as part of changes to the electoral system that “leaves no room for opposition politics,” according to experts.

The party's chairman, Oleg Romanov, openly admitted that the new party was formed to provide a “reliable support for the Belarusian state and its leader, President Alexander Lukashenko,” the Kyiv Independent reports.

Never very democratic, Lukashenko has steadily tightened his already dominant grip on politics after mass protests broke out in the summer of 2020 following massively fixed elections that saw Lukashenko reinstalled as president.

The EIU’s Democracy Index dubbed Belarus one of 2022’s “worst performers,” giving it an average score of 1.99 out of 10.00 and it winning zero points for “electoral processes and pluralism.”

Lukashenko remains in power almost entire thanks to his control of the security forces. Previously he enjoyed genuine support from blue collar workers, grateful for his success in sheltering the population from the worst instability following the collapse of the Soviet Union; however, even this core support has begun to fade in the face of his brutal crackdown following the falsified elections.

The new party was introduced as part of an overhaul of the election system. The Belarusian parliament passed a bill with new rules on political parties and public associations on January 25 that further denigrates what little plurality there was in the system. Previously, a token opposition presence was permitted during elections.

It was this opposition presence that led to the mass demonstrations in 2020 after two leading opposition figures, blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky and former banker Viktor Babariko, were arrested and eventually jailed for 18 years and 14 years respectively. Both had gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures as part of their registration process and threatened to undermine the legitimacy of a vote that delivered Lukashenko as the winner – a foregone conclusion.

The new election law imposes further restrictions on the creation and existence of independent political parties, including raising the minimum number of party members from 1,000 to 5,000, and requiring that the party's founders be born and reside in Belarus.

The bill also says that political parties can be disbanded for promoting war propaganda, terrorist or extremist activities, actions that harm the state or public interests, and for receiving funds or other property from foreign sources, the Kyiv Independent reports.

Russia also fell 22 places in the EIU’s Democracy Index to 146.