‘Our convincing and fateful victory’ Alexander Lukashenko inaugurated as president of Belarus in ‘secret’ ceremony
On Wednesday, September 23, Alexander Lukashenko was inaugurated as president of Belarus, reports the Belarusian state news agency BelTA. The inauguration ceremony took place at Independence Palace in Minsk, Lukashenko’s working residence. A few hundred people attended the inauguration: high-ranking officials, members of parliament, the heads of state organizations and media, as well as academic, cultural, and sports figures. Lukashenko took the oath, after which Central Election Commission Chairwoman Lidiya Yermoshina (Lidziya Yarmoshyna) presented him with the certificate of the president of Belarus.
During the inauguration, Lukashenko spoke about the defeat of a “color revolution” in Belarus. “The day of the president’s inauguration is the day of our convincing and fateful victory. We didn’t just elect the president of the country — we protected our values, our peaceful life, sovereignty, and independence. [...] An unprecedented challenge was thrown at our statehood — the challenge of repeatedly tried and tested, sure-fire [strategies] for the destruction of independent states. But we ended up among the very few — [and are] even, perhaps, the only [country], — where a ‘color revolution’ didn’t take place,” Lukashenko said, as quoted by BelTA.
The inauguration ceremony wasn’t announced in advance and it wasn’t broadcast on television or radio, even though this is required by law (state television played soap operas during this time). On the morning of September 23, Belarusian media reported military vehicles and servicemen in the area around the Independence Palace (including officers from the honor guard), as well as people in suits who looked like government officials (among them was the First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, Maksim Ryzhankou). Later, Minsk’s two main boulevards, Independence Avenue and Victors Avenue, were blocked off. The president’s motorcade drove down them to get to the Independence Palace.
Yesterday, the Belarusian opposition Telegram channel Nexta warned about the possibility of Lukashenko holding a secret inauguration. Nexta reported three potential inauguration dates: September 23, 27, or 28. The channel claimed that September 27 was most likely. By law, the inauguration ceremony for the president of Belarus is supposed to take place no later than two months after the presidential elections, so it had to take place before October 9.
Members of the Opposition Coordination Council’s Presidium, Pavel Latushko (Pavel Latushka) compared Lukashenko’s inauguration to the coronation of a kingpin. “Today we have witnessed an unprecedented situation. The outgoing president, who claims to have gained more than 80 percent of the votes during the elections, carried out a special operation to inaugurate himself. Under the protection of the OMON [riot police], in an atmosphere of secrets and secrecy, in a narrow circle of hastily gathered officials. [...] Honestly, it looks more like a thieves’ meeting for the coronation of another kingpin [vora v zakone]. Obviously, Alexander Lukashenko is only the president of the OMON and a handful of lying officials,” Latushko wrote on Telegram. He also called on Belarusians to begin an “indefinite act of rebellion.”
After the inauguration, people in Minsk began taking to the street in spontaneous demonstrations. Judging by the photographs, few people have come out in protest so far. But law enforcement officers have already started making arrests: in particular, a woman with a sign that read “Sasha, take your labor” was arrested near the Independence Palace. According to the Belarusian edition of The Village, on September 23, the company Rozum Robotics announced a day off “in connection with a festive event,” and “5 Element” employees reported a shortened work day “in connection with possible disruptions in the work of public transport.” Opposition Telegram channels are calling on residents of Belarus to take to the streets across the country for large-scale protests starting at 6:00 p.m. local time.
The Belarusian presidential elections took place on August 9. According to elections officials, Lukashenko won 80.1 percent of the vote; his main opponent, opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya), allegedly came in second place with 10.12 percent. Following widespread reports of vote rigging, daily protests began on the streets of Belarus, which were brutally suppressed by riot police. The protests are ongoing, but mainly take place on Sundays, involving between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people. The European Union and the United States consider the 2020 Belarusian presidential elections illegitimate and have refused to recognize the results of the vote. Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Lukashenko on his victory.
Translation by Eilish Hart