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16:07
27 July 2020
Thousands attend election rally in support of Belarusian presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya
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Thousands attend election rally in support of Belarusian presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

Photo:
Sergei Grits / AP

Eight to ten thousand people gathered in support of lone opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in the Belarusian city of Homel on July 26, according to a report by TUT.by.


The rally was attended by hundreds of Homel locals wielding flags in their hands, with many displaying white ribbons on their wrists in a sign of solidarity with Tikhanovskaya's election campaign, as well as former presidential hopefuls Viktor Babaryko and Valery Tsepkalo, both of whom were barred from taking part in the vote by Belarusian authorities.

"You all know: Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is not a politician, I don't have a program for changing Belarus, but the men who were banned from taking part in the election race have one. I don't need power. I want my children, my husband, and [the opportunity to] keep frying my cutlets," the presidential candidate said in a speech addressed to the thousands present.

Tikhanovskaya announced that she would call a new, "absolutely transparent and fair" vote in the event of her victory, one which would include her husband, Babaryko, Tsepkalo and other candidates.

She added that a vote for her equated to a vote for change.

Belarusian authorities have cracked down on several opposition politicians in the run-up to the August presidential election. Sergey Tikhanovsky, a prominent Lukashenko rival, has been denied the opportunity to take part in the vote, and has been detained and charged with violating public order. He could face up to three years in prison if he is found guilty.

Viktor Babaryko, a former banker widely regarded as the only candidate with a real chance of beating Lukashenko, was arrested in mid-June and charged with money laundering, bribery and tax evasion. Babaryko has been held at a KGB prison since being detained on June 18.

Valery Tsepkalo, a former diplomat and businessman, was barred from the election ballot after authorities refused to admit signatures in support of his candidacy, and fled the country last week fearing for his arrest.

Tikhanovsky's wife Svetlana has taken his place as a stand-in candidate in the vote, and has received the backing of both Tsepkalo and Babaryko after being admitted to the election ballot on June 14.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's campaign now presents a united opposition front to Alexander Lukashenko's candidacy in what analysts call the toughest re-election campaign in his 26 years in power.

Belarus' presidential election is set for August 9.

Incumbent leader Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994, and is seeking to secure his sixth term as president.