The Belarussian opposition has held a final rally before the presidential election on Sunday. Even organising the meeting was a risk – with authorities denying permission for the gathering, and anti-government activists having been jailed or fined for holding rallies in the past. But leading opposition candidate Alexander Milinkievich told them change was inevitable.
That is not how the polls, and President Alexander Lukashenko, see it.He is widely expected to be re-elected after preaching a message of stability which appeals to the elderly and those in rural areas. But the outcome of the ballot is likely to be contested, with both Brussels and Washington accusing Lukashenko of denying free speech, closing independent media and rigging the election.
With preliminary voting already underway, the European Union has said any violence against peaceful demonstrators will be met with a “strong international reaction”. The secret services have warned they will not tolerate any street protests.