In a school hall on the outskirts of Minsk, an unusual event is taking place. It’s a week before Belarus’s presidential election and voters are questioning an opposition candidate about the legitimacy of her campaign.
“I came here to make sure you’re not a KGB agent,” says one woman in the audience of about 50 people. Then a man asks why he should vote at all when the results are sure to be falsified.
The candidate’s reply does little to instil confidence. “The regime counts the votes for itself,” says Tatyana Korotkevich, the only presidential challenger claiming to represent Belarus’s democratic opposition. “If a different candidate wins it will know, and it won’t be able to ignore us. Then I will be able to continue agitating for peaceful changes,” she adds.
The event is unusual in Belarus because there are few government critics standing for election – and there is not much campaigning going on. There was one televised debate, but President Alexander Lukashenko, who no one doubts will emerge victorious after Sunday’s vote, did not take part. He doesn’t hold rallies, answer questions or go out of his way to meet voters at all.