Belarus: no sign of change

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Belarus: no sign of change

Belarus: no sign of change
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The bomb that ripped through the Minsk metro on Monday, killing 12 and injuring hundreds, has left many observers shaken.

Belarus has been controlled by what the opposition call a dictatorship since 1994. Those who oppose the authoritarian leader are subjected to brutal penalties.

The former Soviet republic has no history of violent political opposition or Islamist insurgency.

Alexander Lukashenko, who is called by some ‘Europe’s Last Dictator,’ believes the attack may have been an attempt to destabilise the country. He called the bombing a “present from enemies outside the country.”

Rivals fear that the incident will be used to further repress those who want to see political change in a country that has been governed by the same man for 17 years.

In the past, Lukashenko has promised to send the army into the streets to keep order. The former communist state gained independence in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Lukashenko came to power after he served as chairman of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee.

A 1996 referendum gave him greatly increased powers, allowing him to extend his term by two years. He later won a further five years in office in 2001.

In January Lukashenko was inaugurated for a fourth term.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe described the election as seriously flawed and condemned the violent backlash against opposition candidates.

Lukashenko has been isolated on the international scene. Despite this he remains defiant in the face of Western pressure for change and continues to rule the country with an iron fist. He has dismissed any possibility of revolutionary reform.

The announcement of the latest election results angered opponents. Riots in the streets of Minsk were violently repressed. Several hundred people were arrested, including political campaigners and activists.

The United States and Europe imposed a travel ban on Lukashenko after the election result and the brutal handling of his opponents.

Despite relations deteriorating between Russia and Belarus in 2010, Russia remains the country’s strongest ally.