The presidential elections are the most important in Belarus, as the state has turned into a strong authoritarian Presidential republic. For presidential elections to be valid, a turnout of 50 percent of the registered voters is required. For a candidate to be elected as president, he or she must receive more than half of all the votes. If no candidate achieves this, a second election round has to be held within two weeks. The President is elected for a five year term. Elections in Belarus are primarily regulated by the constitution, the election code and the Central Election Committee (CEC). The parliamentary elections are held every four years through a simple majority vote with the outcome decided by overall majorities in single-member constituencies for the 110 seats in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the National Assembly. In addition, the upper house of parliament, the Council of the Republic, comprises of 64 members, with representation which is geographically based. The members of the Council of the Republic are appointed by the president and elected in a secret voting procedure. Belarus also holds elections for local councils of deputies, who are also elected for a period of four years.
Parliamentary elections 2012
In the 2012 parliamentary elections held between 18 and 23 September, President Alexander Lukashenka’s movement Belaya Rus won 105 of the 110 seats. Three deputies represent the Communist Party of Belarus and one the Agrarian Party, both of which ran on platforms supporting the President. One seat has to be contested in a second round, as no candidate secured the necessary 50 percent.
Parliament and Council
The list of the 109 registered members of the House of Representatives of the new, 5th convocation and the upper Chamber, the Council of the Republic, was approved by the Central Election Commission on September 28. After the elections, the old parliament’s role is preserved with adherence to informal quotas in the formation of the new Deputies corps. As proposed by Lukashenka, the succession quota (20-25%) is fully observed: 21 members of the 4th convocation was successfully nominated, registered and elected to the 5th convocation. The gender quota also remains: 26.6% of MPs are women. In the upper national Assembly house, the Council of the Republic, 56 candidates, 8 per region, were nominated and approved by the ruling movement and eight other members supportive of the regime were appointed directly by President Lukashenka.
According to OSCE post-election reports, with its commencement on August 23 the election campaign remained “barely visible” in most parts of the country, despite a light increase in activity during the last two weeks before the elections. The campaign is reported to have taken place in a controlled environment, with regulations limiting its basics, including holding meetings with voters, printing and distributing campaign materials, as well as accessing the media. Thus, the low-key campaigning activities, correlating with the general public disinterest inclined international observers to raise questions on the voters’ ability to make informed choices on election day.
The elections were followed closely by the ODIHR and OSCE, which deployed a mission of 11 core team experts from eight states, based in Minsk, 36 long-term observers, deployed throughout the country and 270 short-term observers from OSCE/ODIHR participating states. The elections were also monitored by the Belarusian For Fair Elections (FFE) coalition as the largest monitoring effort in Belarus. With support from the US National Democratic Institute (NDI) as well as other American, Dutch and Swedish sources, FFE deployed over 1,200 observers to polling places in 36 electoral districts beginning at the start of early voting on September 18. Post-election reports by the observers state that despite the minor improvements such as the reformed Electoral Code, the elections took place in an overall atmosphere of repression and intimidation. They were not administered impartially, and key OSCE commitments such as the citizens’ rights to associate, stand as candidates and the right to free expression were not respected. The OSCE also issued a report with serious concerns stating that the election poll was not competitive from the start and many democratic rights were not respected as most of the opposition parties pulled their candidates and urged voters to stay away from the polls. On September 24, Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Stefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European neighbourhood Policy declared that the 2012 elections represent yet another missed opportunity for Belarus to conduct elections in line with international standards.
The democratic opposition was divided as to whether or not to boycott the elections. 122 opposition candidates (74 percent of those who applied for registration) in 93 electoral districts were initially registered as candidates, a number which later on was reduced with the United Civic Party (UCP) and Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) withdrawal of 65 candidates from the election in protest over unfair electoral campaign conditions. 55 opposition candidates in 46 electoral districts remained on the parliamentary ballot. None were elected to parliament.
Presidential elections 2010
On 19 December 2010 presidential elections were held in Belarus. Incumbent Lukashenka has won re-election to a fourth term with a landslide victory of 79.67 percent. The rest of the candidates received less than 2.5 percent support. Official CEC reports presented overall 90.66 percent turnout.
According to OSCE observers, this election showed that Belarus still has a considerable way to go in meeting OSCE commitments, although some specific improvements were made. While voting on election day was overall assessed positively, the process deteriorated significantly during the vote count, with observers assessing almost half of vote counts monitored as bad or very bad. "This election failed to give Belarus the new start it needed […]”, said Tony Lloyd, who lead the short-term OSCE observer mission and the delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. According to a preliminary report of the Initiative Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections, the campaign environment was considerably less restricted than during previous elections. However, the dominance of state broadcast media by the incumbent disadvantaged opposition candidates who were either not mentioned, or portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative light.
The opposition has accused Lukashenka of massive fraud. On the eve of the election, opposition protests broke out with demonstrators clashing with the police. The opposition protest quickly grew to several tens of thousands of people, some of whom tried to storm the main government building, breaking windows and glass doors. Anti-riot police repelled the protesters, and dozens of people were reported injured in the violent clashes including opposition presidential candidate Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu. According to Belarusian authorities, more than 600 activists, journalists and civil society representatives were detained during the protests and given sentences from five to 15 days in prison. Furthermore, some opposition presidential candidates were beaten, and seven were arrested. Five of them - Ales Mikhalevich , Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu, Vital Rymasheuski, Mikola Statkevich, and Andrey Sannikau - were charged with organizing mass riots during the elections and faced between five and 15 years in prison. Mikhalevich was released in 2011 and Andrey Sannikau was released in 2012. Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu and Vital Rymasheuski were given a suspended sentence in 2010 as well. Statkevich remains in prison.
Belarusian Social Democratic Party Narodnaya Hramada (BSDP NH)
The BSDP NH calls itself the successor of the Belarusian Socialist Hramada, which was founded in 1903. The Belarusian Socialist Hramada played a crucial role in the formation of the short-lived Belarusian People's Republic in 1918. The party was re-established in March 1991. Since then it has been plagued by internal conflicts. Mikola Statkevich has chaired the party since 1995 and has been arrested several times for his actions against the Lukashenka government.
The BSDP-NH demands a democratic, legal, and social state, and favours European Council and European Union membership for Belarus. One of the party’s priorities traditionally is the defence and the revival of national values. Today, the BSDP-NH programme wants to adapt ’classical values of European Social Democracy’ to Belarusian standards. It wants a social market economy and privatisation of small and medium businesses, but wants to keep railways and utilities in government hands. According to the BSDP-NH, the medical care, the pension system, and education need to be reformed on a step-by-step basis.
The party used to be a member of the Consultative Council of Parties, but under the leadership of Mikola Statkevich left the council when it decided to participate in the 2000 elections, while other opposition parties organised a boycott. In 2003 the BDSP-NH became the leading party of the European Coalition “Free Belarus”.
The BSDP-NH experienced some major changes in 2005. Internal conflicts led to a split in the party. The vice-chairmen of the party - Vladimir Nistyuk, Vitaly Malashko and Yury Markovsky accused party leader Statkevich of acting in violation of the party’s charter and held separate talks on the creation of a united social democratic party. They went to the Ministry of Justice, to get support for their act and Mr. Nistyuk, was appointed as interim chairman of the party which also claims to be the one and only rightful BSDP.
On 22 March 2005 a formal charge was brought against Statkevich over the street protests that were sparked by the internationally criticized 2004 parliamentary elections and referendum. The criminal proceedings were instituted under the Criminal Code’s Article 342 that carries punishment for “the organization of group actions disturbing public peace or active participation in them.” Mr. Statkevich was sentenced to three years in corrective labour camp. Later, this was reduced to two years. Statkevich was released on 22 May 2007. In 2010 he was among the democratic presidential candidates. After the violent crash of the opposition demonstration Statkevich was arrested and sent to prison again. On May 26, 2011, he was sentenced to six years in a maximum security penal colony.
Since the split of the party, the party is without registration and office, which makes it hard to operate effectively. Despite internal party disagreements, the BDSP-NH ran the 2012 parliamentary elections, but did not manage to enter parliament.
The BSDP-NH has a consultative status with the SI.
Leader: Mikola Statkevich
Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada (BSDP H)
The BSDP H was founded after the split of the BSDP NH (above). On 15 January 2005 this BSDP, at that time still claiming the name BSDP NH, appointed Anatol Levkovich as new leader of the party. The party claims to have unified with the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada (BSDH). This would only include the people around former BSDH prominent Aleksei Korol, because the leader of BSDH, Stanislav Sushkevich, says the unification process was held to create an imitated social democratic party.
In 2005 the name of the party changed into Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada (BSDP H) and Alyaksandr Kazulin, a former rector of Belarusian State University, became the party leader. Kazulin ran as a candidate in the 2006 presidential election alongside united opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich.
On 25 March 2006, a week after the presidential election, Kazulin was arrested. He was charged with hooliganism and the organisation of group actions, crudely breaking public order and disobedience to legal requirements of the authorities. Kazulin was found guilty and sentenced to five and a half years of imprisonment. He was released in August 2008, however. Around the same time the party decided to replace Kazulin with former deputy head, Anatol Levkovich. However, Levkovich was widely criticised for having close links with the authorities.
In May 2012 the party elected a new chairperson, Irina Veshtard, during the XIII BSDP (Hramada) Congress. The election was confirmed by the Ministry of Justice, and the social democratic party thus finally acquired a legitimate administration and a new legal address.
On 12 August 2012 the Social Democratic Party Hramada nominated 15 candidates for the September 23 parliamentary elections. The Party is officially registered at the Ministry of Justice and is part of the opposition coalition United Democratic Forces of Belarus. The OSCE report states that the BDSP H remained active throughout the election campaigning, however did not pass the 5 percent electoral threshold to enter parliament.
The BSDP H actively seeks support of social democrats in Western Europe.
Leader: Irina Veshtard
Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly (Hramada)
The party was founded in 1998 and is led by Stanislav Shushkevich, who chaired the Supreme Soviet of Belarus from 1991 to 1994. In this capacity, in 1991, together with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk he signed the declaration that officially dissolved the Soviet Union (Belavezha Agreement). In the first presidential election in 1994, Shushkevich stood as a candidate, but was defeated by current president Lukashenka.
The party was a member of the Five Plus opposition coalition and supported the candidacy of united opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich in the 2006 election. The social democratic faction led by Aleksei Korol left the party and joined BDSP H, led by Kazulin. The party is in favour of an independent Belarus that is no colony of Russia, but also not a member of NATO or the EU.
The party is still officially registered at the Ministry of Justice of Belarus.
Leader: Stanislav Shushkevich
United Civil Party (UCP)
The party was established in 1995 as a result of a merger of two like-minded parties - United Democratic Party (formed in 1990) and Civil Party (formed in 1994). According to the party’s statutes, it has a liberal conservative orientation that places the individual’s rights above the interests of social groups, the state or the nation. The main pillars are human rights, an open society, a democratic form of government, the rule of law, the right of personal property and of free entrepreneurship. Belarus’ membership of the EU is one of the party’s goals. The party used to be part of the Five Plus opposition coalition.
The party opposes Lukashenka’s government. It boycotted the 2012 parliamentary elections.
In 2007, Anatoly Lebedko became one of the four rotational leaders of the Democratic Forces in Belarus. Lebedka was one of the oppositional leaders that were jailed as a result of the protests following the December 2010 parliamentary elections.
In 2012, at the XIV Congress of the United Civil Party Lebedko was unanimously re-elected chairman of the party.
UCP has a Women’s organisation and a Youth Organisation. The Party is one of the two main members of the opposition coalition The United Democratic Forces of Belarus.
Leader: Anatoly Lebedka
Belarusian Popular Front ‘Adradzhennie’ (BPF)
The organisational committee of the BPF was established in October 1988 by a group of intellectuals and was the first alternative to the Communist Party in Belarus. The BPF has a nationalist conservative orientation and favours democracy and independence through national rebirth and rebirth of civil society, which was destroyed by communism and foreign occupation. The BPF is fighting for the development of Belarus as an independent, democratic, neutral state, which has good relations with all nations. The party is against unification with Russia.
The BPF was part of the Five Plus opposition coalition and supported the united opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich during the 2006 presidential election. Two weeks before the election party leader Vyachorka, who played a key role in the campaign, was jailed for two weeks for organising an unauthorised rally. In 2007 Vyachorka, was elected as one of the four rotational leaders of the Democratic Forces in Belarus.
After a brutal dispersal of the December 2010 protest rally when more than 600 people were arrested and sentenced to administrative arrests, the BPF Central Office became an unofficial centre for solidarity with arrested people from the opposition.
In February 2011, more than 80 members left BPF accusing the party’s leadership of de facto cooperation with Lukashenka’s regime.
The party leader Alaksiej Janukievich was elected at the XII Congress on September 5, 2009 and re-elected at the XIV Congress on September 10, 2011.
Leader: Alaksiej Janukievich
Belarusian United Left Party “A Just World” (former Belarusian Party of Communists (BPC))
The party was founded in 1991 as the successor of the ruling Communist Party of Belarus (CPB). The Belarusian Party of Communists went into opposition and co-existed with the pro-government Communist Party of Belarus.
Within its party platform it advocates unions, the achievement of full liberation from exploitation in all its forms and the construction of a classless society of social justice. The party declares it is in favour of eliminating the authoritarian regime. It did, however, agree with Lukashenka on the union of Belarus with Russia.
In July 2006 the BPC suffered a blow from the repressive regime as the pro-government Communist Party of Belarus claimed unification of the two communist parties. The BPC leadership, however, said that only two BPC members, who were earlier removed from the ranks of the party, attended the so-called merger conference. Party leader Kalyakin described the congress as a government orchestrated move to eliminate the party.
In November 2006 the party signed a document declaring the intention to form an alliance of left-wing parties with the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada, led by Alyaksandr Kazulin, and the Belarusian Women's Party "Nadzeya" led by Yelena Yeskova.
In 2007, Kalyakin, was elected as one of the four rotational leaders of the Democratic Forces.
The party is currently member of the opposition coalition United Democratic Forces of Belarus. It was one of the three opposition parties that ran the elections of 2012.
Leader: Sergey Kalyakin
Conservative Christian Party BPF (CCP- BPF)
The party was registered in 2000, shortly after the split of BPF "Adradzhennie". In its platform it advocates the establishment of a democratic society and the building of a strong Belarus. The party calls itself the successor of the BPF. The CCP-BPF has shown resistance to join supra-party bodies and is reported to run its own activities.
It does not take part in coalitions and has a radical nationalist conservative orientation. In May 2006 the exiled leader, Zyanon Paznyak, was re-elected as the leader of the party at its 7th congress, at the Palace of Culture of the Minsk Tractor factory.
Leader: Zenon Paznyak.
Belarusian Christian Democracy (BCD)
One of the oldest parties, the Belarusian Christian Democracy movement was originally created in the beginning of the 20th century, with the establishment of the first Belarusian Christian democratic political organization - the Belarusian Christian Democratic Union. The party ceased to exist officially in 1940, with its first attempt for revival taking place in 1991. The attempt of the movement to re-appear on the political arena with three Christian Democratic parties was unsuccessful as it failed to achieve broad support.
The modern initiative to revive the movement was launched in 2005 by former Young Front activists in the beginning of the 2000s. The initiative positioned its activities on Christian values as well as Belarusian patriotism. Differently from its predecessor, modern Belarusian Christian Democracy identifies itself as an inter-confessional party, oriented also to orthodox believers and protestants. Members of the movement see a need in Belarus for a political force based upon Christian values, democratic principles and patriotism, a need which should be fulfilled by the BCD.
The Organizational Committee started activity in 2005, including well known as well as new civic leaders. In 2009, the Committee decided to conduct a founding assembly and obtain state registration of the “Belarusian Christian Democracy” party. After filing all the documents necessary for the state registration, the Ministry of Justice refused to register the party.
In 2012, despite still not registered, the BCD remains active on the political arena.
Leader: Paval Seviarynets, Heorhi Dmitruk, Vital Rymasheuski
Communist Party of Belarus (CPB)
Although the Communist Party of Belarus was banned after the Moscow coup attempt of 1991, it has never lost importance as a political movement. The party’s support base consists mainly of pensioners and civil servants. Its programme models itself after that of the former USSR, opposing reforms and privatisation and having a clear preference for the Russian culture (while rejecting the Belarusian culture). It strives for leading the society on a socialist path of development resulting in the construction of a society of social justice based on the principles of community, strengthening of the Belarusian state and restoration of voluntary state union of the peoples of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
After the 2012 elections it secured three seats in parliament. On 22 October 2012, leader Tatsyana Holubeva was replaced by Ihar Karpenka, deputy head of the Minsk City Executive Committee as the new leader of the CPB.
Leader: Ihar Karpenka
Agrarian Party (AP)
In 1992 executives of agricultural enterprises founded the United Agrarian Democratic Party. The party changed its name to the Agrarian Party in 1994. It has a program entitled ’democratic socialism’, which promotes the full participation of the members of the party in the activities of state and local governments with delegated representatives in these bodies through elections, political education, and the education of citizens as well as the economic and social development of rural areas through the centuries-old spiritual culture of the Belarusian village. In the beginning, during the presidential election campaign in 1994, the party was in favour of creating a confederation of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. It was one of the biggest parties. After the 1996 parliament reform, the AP split. It was not until 2000 that the AP returned to the political arena, this time as a fully pro-presidential party with Mikhail Schimanski as chairman.
In 2008 elections it gained one seat in parliament, which remained unchanged after the 2012 elections.
Leader: Mikhail Schimanski
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
The Liberal Democratic Party was created in 1994 as the Belarusian successor of the Liberal Democratic Party of the Soviet Union. It is supportive of the Lukashenka regime and its platform holds for the construction of parliamentary methods of law for a mixed economy by promoting the ideas of liberalism and liberal democracy. It shares similar ideology to the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and advocates the unification of Belarus with Russia.
In the 2004 parliamentary elections it won 1 seat in parliament, in 2006 presidential elections its candidate got 3.5 percent support. It is still officially registered and ran the elections of 2012, however, did not win any seats.
Leader: Sergei Gaidukevich
Republican Labour and Justice Party
The Republican Party of Labour and Justice was created in 1993 and proclaims to be a social democratic party promoting economic prosperity and social justice. It is supportive of president Lukashenka. The elections of 2004 and 2008 were not successful for the party. It is registered as an active participant of the 2012 elections; however it did not win any seats.
Leader: Vasil Zadnyaprany
Young Front (Malady Front)
One of the first and most influential youth organisations in Belarus is the Young Front (Malady Front). The organisation was established as the youth branch of the Belarusian Popular Front Adradzhennie (BNF) in 1996. In that year, the BNF experienced a substantial rise of young party members concerned with the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Lukashenka and thus established Malady Front.
Like its mother party, the organisation took up an anti-regime stance, upholding conservative, nationalist and Christian-Democratic principles. Not all members felt a direct connection with the organisation, but Malady Front was the most viable opposition youth organisation at that time.
Malady Front, although never officially registered and therefore formally an illegal organisation, was structured like a political party and thus was a rather hierarchical organisation. This is one of the reasons for its split in 2000. In that year the members of Malady Front re-elected Pavel Seviarynets as President of the organisation. Later, Seviarynets was re-elected causing a number of high placed Malady Front members to leave the organisation to start up a new, less hierarchical and less exclusive platform, Zubr, which is currently considered defunct.
The movement aligned with Zubr and the European Coalition in organising non-violent demonstrations after the elections and referendum in 2004. In the 2006 elections, instead of uniting into a single movement, Malady Front initiated its own campaign.
In 2007, Young Front activists were increasingly charged with membership of an illegal organisation. During the protests following the presidential elections in 2010 and during protests in 2011, various members of Young Front were arrested. Young Front is a member of the Youth of the European People’s party.
Leader: Zmitser Dashkevich
YCSU Young Democrats
The Youth Christian Social Union (YCSU) Young Democrats is a Christian democratic youth organization which since 2004 is a member of the Youth of the European People’s party, the official young wing of the European People’s party. The YCSU was founded in 1997 and was officially registered at the Ministry of Justice in the period of 1998-2003. On the eve of the 2004 parliamentary elections the Supreme Court decided to liquidate it because of involvement in campaigning for oppositional candidates and participating in street actions, resulting in a loss of legal status for the organization. In 2002, the YCSU merged with the Youth organization of the United Civil Party (UCP) and the YCSU Young Democrats was created. Nonetheless, the YCSU Young Democrats is an independent youth organization and is not UCP affiliated. The organization presents its main goal to be the preparation of a new generation of policymakers in Belarus.
During the 2008 parliamentary elections, YCSU Young Democrats had three candidates in the united list of 110 oppositional candidates. However, none of the 110 seats were given to the opposition, even though YCSU Young Democrats records showed its leader, Aliaksandr Shumkevich, received 5566 votes.
In 2009 the YCSU Young Democrats initiated another attempt to regain its legal status, but the Minstry of Justice declined, and was supported by the Supreme Court. The same year, the youth organization was among the founders of the opposition Belarusian Independence Bloc.
Leader: Aliaksandr Shumkevich
President of Belarus
Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenka was born on 31 Augustus, 1954 in a small village in eastern Belarus where he was brought up by his single mother. Lukashenka graduated from Mogilev Pedagogical Institute in 1975 and the Belarussian Agricultural Academy in 1985. After serving in the Soviet army between 1980 and 1982, Lukashenka started a career in collective farming in the mid-1980’s. At the end of this decade, he started to move into politics and in 1990 he became a deputy in the Supreme Council of Belarus. He was the only deputy to vote against the agreement that dissolved the Soviet Union. In 1993, Lukashenka was elected chairman of the anti-corruption committee of the Belarusian parliament and in this function he accused a number of senior government officials of corruption.
In 1994 Lukashenka was able to defeat four other candidates and became the President of Belarus. In 2001, he was elected for a second term and due to a 2004 referendum which abolished the two-term presidential limit he was able to seek re-election for a third term in 2006 and a fourth term in 2010.
Lukashenka has been controversial for his authoritarian instincts and is often referred to as ‘the last dictator of Europe’.
He is married to Galina Lukashenka and they have two adult sons. Lukashenka also has an illegitimate younger son.
Leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Narodnaya Hramada
Mikola Viktorovich Statkevich was born on 12 August 1956 to a family of teachers. In 1978 he graduated from the Minsk Higher Engineering zenith-rocket academy where he later worked as a teacher, and in 1986 he obtained a PhD.
In February 1991 he left the Communist Party out of protest and became member of the Central Rada and Executive Committee of the Belarus Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada). In 1996 he became its chairman. In the same period (1991-1995), as a former military officer he founded and headed the Belarus Union of Military, which had as its goal the creation of a Belarus army for the defence of independence and historic-patriotic education of society.
In 2000 he participated in the elections for the Chamber of Deputies, and in 2003 he became the leader of the European Coalition, which included a number of parties, trade unions, women’s and youth organisations. The Coalition was in favour of a European direction of development. In 2005 he was sentenced to three years in prison for organising a street action on 18-19 October 2004 in Minsk, against the (falsification of the) official results of the parliamentary elections and the referendum. After an amnesty his sentence was shortened by a year.
In 2009 the congress of the European Coalition nominated him as its Presidential candidate for the 2010 elections. During the campaigning, following the violent crackdown on the opposition demonstration he was arrested and imprisoned. Statkevich was found guilty of mass riot organization on December 19, 2010 and on May 26, 2012 he was sentenced to six-year imprisonment in a maximum security penal colony.
In January 2012, Statkevich was transferred from the penal colony to a closed prison with much more severe conditions of confinement. Amnesty International reported in July 2012 that Statkevich had been moved to a “punishment cell” after refusing to sign a confession.
Statkevich has two adult daughters.
Alyaksandr Kazulin was born on 25 November, 1955 in Minsk. Kazulin holds a PhD in mathematics and pedagogy and from 1996 to 2003, he served as dean of the Belarusian State University. During this period he also acted as a government minister under President Lukashenka. Later Kazulin was labelled an "opposition leader" by the regime and after being fired, he became the leader of the Social Democratic Party Hramada (BDSP-H).
As leader of BDSP-H he was one of the candidates in the 2006 presidential elections. Several weeks before the elections Kazulin was beaten and detained by the police. In July 2006 he was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for hooliganism and inciting mass disorder. He served two and a half years before international pressure resulted in his release in 2008.
While he was in prison, Lukashenka offered Kazulin and his family deportation and a chance for “a better life outside Belarus”. They refused, calling the offer a disgrace. Kazulin argues that this decision resulted in the death of Irena, Kazulin's wife, who got sick shortly after and was not given access to proper medical care as long as she stayed in the country.
Today, he remains active in bringing attention to fighting Lukashenka’s dictatorship and bringing attention to the wrongfully imprisoned.
Leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada
Irina Veshtard was born on 17 march in the Gradnenski region and graduated chemistry from the Belarusian State University in 1976. She was elected a member of the Smorgon council from 1995 till 2007. She joined the Hramada party in 1991 and was elected chairman of the party on June 6, 2011.
Leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada
Stanislav Shuskevich was born in 1934 in Minsk. He graduated from the Belarus State University with a degree in physics in 1956. In 1969 he became a member of staff at the same university and in 1986 he was appointed pro-rector. He also became politically active in this period.
Shuskevich is well known due to his position as chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus from 1991 to 1994. He was dismissed from his position in 1994 as a result of his liberal political and economic policies, and was one of the signatories – along with Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk – of the Belavezhda agreement which effectively dissolved the Soviet Union and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
In the first Belarus presidential election in 1994, Shushkevich stood as a candidate, but was defeated by current president Lukashenka.
In 1998, Shuskevich founded the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada and remains its leader.