Remembering examples from history
We have already said that the refusal of the Belarusians to participate in the political life of the country is a guarantee of a peaceful life for the regime. But are there any cases where the boycott of the elections led to positive developments?
In 2010, the Brookings Institution published a study that analyzed 171 boycotts. In 96% of cases, this not only did not help to resolve the crisis within the country, but also strengthened the position of the current government.
Here are some examples from history when opponents of the system called for a boycott, and remember what this led to. (spoiler: nothing good). We specially selected countries with a similar political situation: authoritarian or hybrid regimes, where the regime was accused of electoral fraud.
In December 2020, major opposition leaders, including Juan Guaido, called for a boycott of the parliamentary elections. However, this decision made only President Maduro happy. The official turnout was only 31%, mainly supporters of the authorities came to the polling stations and they did not even have to falsify the results: the pro-presidential alliance won the majority of votes, and the opposition lost control over parliament.
On the eve of the 2008 presidential elections in Azerbaijan, the main opposition bloc decided to boycott the campaign - the authorities exhaled and calmed down. Technical candidates competed with Ilham Aliyev, and the local CEC reported on a «confident victory» - according to official data, Ilham Aliyev gained 88.73%. Due to the fact that the opposition did not participate in the elections, they passed relatively calmly. This made it possible to show a beautiful picture for international observers and foreign partners, and create the illusion of large-scale popular support.
In 2019, opposition forces in Albania accused the ruling party of economic problems and impending fraud and announced that they would boycott municipal elections. Unsurprisingly, representatives of the ruling Socialist Party ultimately triumphed across the country. They did not even have to manipulate the results: after all, the opposition did not nominate its candidates and the elections turned out, in fact, uncontested.
Parliamentary elections in Jamaica in 1983 are one of the most striking examples of a failed boycott. The main opposition party has called on its supporters to refuse to vote. The appeal worked and the turnout was only 2.7%. Despite the empty lots, the elections took place anyway. Representatives of the ruling Labor Party eventually took all the vacant seats in parliament and held power for another 6 years.
In Togo, the opposition «Union Forces for Change» party disagreed with electoral legislation and called for the 2002 elections to be ignored. This did not prevent the pro-government party from getting 90% of the seats in parliament, because only its supporters came to the polls. The apathy of political opponents allowed the regime to take advantage of the majority and lift restrictions on the number of presidential terms, and President Gnassing-be Eyadema was able to push through amendments to the law to facilitate the transfer of power to his son.
And if it seems to you that it is strange to compare Togo and Belarus, then here are some statistics. In the ranking of the level of development of democracy for 2020, this state of West Africa has overtaken our country by 7 points. The Togolese Republic occupies the 141st place, and Belarus - 148th.
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