Svetlana Tikhanovskaya become one of Belarus’ most influential politicians almost overnight, with thousands attending rallies and protests. But a lack of online popularity may now see her shut out of talks with the government.
That’s according to the country’s permanent representative at the United Nations, Yury Ambrazevich, who told the Radio Television Switzerland network that officials weren’t considering dialogue with her or supporters of the protest leader.
“Look at who Tikhanovskaya is,” he said. “Look online to see how many social media followers she has. This figure has never exceeded 100,000. That says it all.”
Instead, Ambrazevich claimed, “The authorities have already clearly indicated the path to change. Specifically, they are providing citizens with the opportunity to express their views on amendments to the constitution and the modernization of our political system. The president has announced that, in a year, we will have a new constitution.”
Rather than representing legitimate calls for reform, the protests that have seen hundreds of thousands take to the streets since last summer were “prepared and coordinated by various groups and social media channels,” the diplomat said. “So, there was an aspect of the protests that we in Belarus see as an attempted coup d’état.”
In a video published on Thursday, Tikhanovskaya called on Belarusians to participate in a nationwide online vote on the opposition-run Voice platform to pressure the authorities into talks about an end to the political crisis. Declaring her “readiness” to participate in negotiations, she said that foreign nations should mediate the discussions.
Mass demonstrations became a weekly occurrence after veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko declared victory in a presidential poll last summer. The opposition, and many international observers, insist the vote was rigged, and protesters have called for a fresh vote. Widespread violence and arrests have been a feature of the response from authorities.
Tikhanovskaya has claimed that she was the true winner of the election, while officials insist she only secured around 10% of the vote. The opposition politician says she was forced to leave the country shortly afterwards and has since carried on campaigning from neighboring Lithuania.
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