How a homemaker with no political experience took on Europe’s longest-serving dictator
(Vox) The 65-year-old former collective farm director jailed two of the three top opposition candidates and barred the third from running; he also detained journalists and even alleged Russian mercenaries the regime claimed were trying to disrupt the election prior to the vote.
But his tactics didn’t quell people’s aspirations for democracy. It lit them on fire — thanks in part to the efforts of one determined stay-at-home mom.
The homemaker versus the dictator
One of Lukashenko’s main opponents in this year’s election was Sergei Tikhanovsky, a famous YouTuber who made his name highlighting Belarus’s many problems. Two days after he announced his candidacy for president, he was arrested by the regime on charges of violating public order and election laws.
That might’ve been the end of the story. But it wasn’t: That’s because his wife, a 37-year-old former English translator turned homemaker named Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, stepped in to run for president instead.
She proved wildly successful, coalescing a nationwide movement to defeat the longtime leader and then hold actually fair elections. That she did so despite having no political experience, acknowledging she didn’t want to be president, and reminding crowds she’d prefer to be making cutlets for her children made her rise all the more surprising.
Here is an article filed by CNN shortly before the election giving further background on Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's opposition efforts:
Moscow (CNN)The main opposition candidate in Belarus' Sunday presidential election went into hiding the night before challenging longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko, who is seeking his sixth term.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's campaign said she fled her apartment due to safety reasons after police detained several of its senior staffers, in what critics called an attempt to intimidate the opposition ahead of the crucial vote.
Meanwhile, her adviser Veronika Tsepkalo fled Belarus for Moscow for safety reasons, the campaign told CNN on Sunday.
Tsepkalo's husband, former Belarusian ambassador to the US, Valery Tsepkalo, was not allowed to register as a candidate and had previously gone to Russia with their children, fearing for their safety after receiving threats of arrest.
The main candidate, Tikhanovskaya, has previously said in interviews she had to send her children abroad after receiving threats they will be placed in an orphanage.