Alexander Lukashenko has been the President of the Republic of Belarus since 1994, coming to office in the wake of the country's split from the former Soviet Union in 1991. He is the only deputy that voted against the nation’s separation from the Union and has been gravitating towards the Soviet policies. He still maintains most of the policies known for the collapsed union such as the state ownership of the key industries among others. His regime has been in conflict with the Western powers over claims of human rights violation and lack of democracy. Together with some senior officials in his government, he has been the subject to sanctions by the European Union (EU) and the United States.
5. Early Life and Education -
Alexander Lukashenko was born on August 30th, 1954 in Kopys in what is now the northern region of Belarus near the Russian border. His mother was unmarried leading to taunts from his schoolmates for having an unmarried mother. He graduated from the Mogilevev Pedagogical Institute in 1975 and later from the Belarusian Agricultural Academy in 1985. He served as a border guard for two years starting from 1975 to 1977. He was later to serve in the army as an officer in the division based in Minsk. Upon leaving the army, he first served as an officer in the State Farm and later became the overall leader.
4. Rise to Power -
Having been elected to the Belarusian parliament, he earned a reputation as a staunch crusader against state corruption. He even mentioned some top state officials including the Prime Minister for engaging in corruption. In the elections that were held on June 23rd and July 10th, he managed to win the election in the second round by receiving more than 80.1% of the votes.
3. Contributions to Belarus in the Soviet and Post-Soviet Eras -
His government has worked consistently in spite of the prevalent challenges towards addressing the national problem of unemployment in Belarus. At the end of 2011, the unemployment rate was at 0.6%, down from 2.9% at the beginning of 1993. His government also managed to help increase the annual per capita income of the average Belarusian worker from $1,423 when he took office to $5,830 in 2011.
2. Challenges -
The country’s economy has struggled given the uncertainty of its currency. The Belarusian Ruble's value has been in a state of free-fall for years, leading to it being pegged against the major international currencies such as the Euros and the US dollar. In spite of these, it had to undergo devaluation in 2011 to make the country’s products competitive in the international market. The country under his leadership has also been a recipient of financial aid from China and other international financial institutions. The aid it obtains from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank is largely dependent on the reforms it carries out domestically.
1. Perceptions at Home and Abroad -
The country has had poor relationships with both the EU and the US. Lukashenko's controversial policies have also led to him being called the ‘last European dictator.’ His government has suppressed opponents at times arresting and arbitrarily imprisoning. He has become subject to sanctions at different times since the year 2006. His opponents have also accused him of using the state machinery to bolster his campaigns. He has severally amended the state constitution to allow him to have greater control over the parliament. The US has at times wanted to assist the opposition groups by passing the Belarusian Democracy Act. However, supporters argue that his authoritarian rule has helped Belarus avoid the turmoil witnessed in other former members of the Soviet Union.