'Europe's last dictator': Who is Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko?

Alexander Lukashenko has won a sixth term. Credit: PA

Alexander Lukashenko has won a sixth term as president of Belarus with the world’s gaze upon the country.

The 75-year-old first took office in 1994 and has been described as “Europe’s last dictator” due to his authoritative state of rule.

Prior to his first election Lukashenko had built a reputation for himself as the fiery chairman of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee.

In 1996, two years after being elected, Lukashenko held a referendum which resulted in him earning greater powers as the country's leader. 

Lukashenko meeting the Pope. Credit: PA

Many of those who have attempted to oppose his leadership have disappeared or been imprisoned for their views. 

Lukashenko’s second election victory in 2001 was deemed undemocratic by Western observers and he has since ended the two-term rule following a further referendum in 2004, allowing to stay in his position.

In recent times the president has attracted plenty of interest due to his handling of the coronavirus.

Lukashenko insisted that drinking vodka and sitting in a sauna would ward off the virus and sport continued in the country with crowds in attendance, he even played in an ice hockey match to insist on the continuation of normality.

Lukashenko with Vladimir Putin at a hockey match. Credit: PA

The election took place with a backdrop of coronavirus and economic failings, leading to the emergence of a surprising late challenger which has seen the campaign and result receive traction worldwide. 

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the wife of a jailed opposition blogger, managed to unite opposition groups and draw tens of thousands to her campaign rallies, tapping growing anger over a stagnant economy and fatigue with Lukashenko’s autocratic rule.

Tsikhanouskaya earned popular support, attracting a crowd of 63,000 to a rally in Minsk, but this was not reflected in the ballot box, leading to calls that corruption was at play during the counting.

“I will believe my own eyes – the majority was for us,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

Lukashenko claimed during the campaign that Russia had sent mercenaries to destabilise Belarus and internet connectivity in the country has been severely disrupted since Sunday.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is the main opposition candidate Credit: AP

In response to the results, thousands took to the streets of Belarus to protest against the leadership of Lukashenko.

The manifestations were faced with a tough response from riot police, who reportedly fired rubber bullets and tear gas, with more than 100 people detained.

Lukashenko’s relations with Vladimir Putin are suffering an impasse and the West does not look favourably on his draconian leadership, meaning his next months will be put under the microscope.

Regardless of the official result, the tide seems to be turning in Belarus, with the world watching on, as “Europe’s last dictator” holds onto power.