- Title: Lukashenko rivals unite fight upcoming Belarus election
- Date: 17th July 2020
- Summary: MINSK, BELARUS (JULY 17, 2020) (REUTERS) HEAD OF CAMPAIGN FOR DETAINED BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE VIKTOR BABARIKO, MARIA KOLESNIKOVA (RIGHT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, SVETLANA TIKHANOUSKAYA, (MIDDLE) AND WIFE OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE VALERY TSEPKALO, VERONIKA TSEPKALO, (LEFT) ENTERING NEWS CONFERENCE ROOM CAMERA OPERATORS FILMING KOLESNIKOVA, TIKHANOUSKAYA, AND TSEPKALO POSING FOR PHOTO CAMERA OPERATORS FILMING (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) HEAD OF CAMPAIGN FOR DETAINED BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE VIKTOR BABARIKO, MARIA KOLESNIKOVA, SAYING: "We have united our efforts for a common goal. As you know, there are many examples in the world when (OVER CLOSE-UP) combined efforts managed to change the regime or fight something people do not agree with. I think that now is the exact historic moment and unique time when we can make a change." FLOWERS ON TABLE (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, SVETLANA TIKHANOUSKAYA, SAYING: "You all know why I am here. It is because of love, love for my husband. This is the reason I decided to continue the activity that is so important to him. I love Belarus and Belarusians. This is the reason why I keep going, despite all the efforts to break me." NEWS CONFERENCE IN PROGRESS (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) WIFE OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE VALERY TSEPKALO, VERONIKA TSEPKALO, SAYING: "Our current country's leadership has shamelessly removed Belarus' three strongest presidential candidates from the election. They are Viktor Dmitrievich Babariko, Sergei Tikhanovskiy and my husband, Valery Tsepkalo. So, after these shameless events we decided to unite and show what women's solidarity is." NEWS CONFERENCE ON CAMERA SCREEN (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, SVETLANA TIKHANOUSKAYA, SAYING: "If I had been alone, maybe I would not have had enough strength. But now I feel the support of the dear ladies and their teams, united with our team, it gives me strength." FLOWERS ON TABLE
- Embargoed: 31st July 2020 17:00
- Keywords: August election Belarus election Belarus opposition Lukashenko oppositioner detained
- Location: MINSK AND VITEBSK, BELARUS
- City: MINSK AND VITEBSK, BELARUS
- Country: Belarus
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA001CN77XH5
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Representatives of the two main rivals to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, both barred from next month's presidential election, announced on Friday (July 17) they would back the wife of an arrested anti-Lukashenko blogger who is pressing on with her campaign.
Hundreds of people protested in the capital on Tuesday after the central election commission refused to register the two rivals as candidates in the Aug. 9 election, all but ensuring victory for Lukashenko, in power for 26 years.
Viktor Babariko, a banker who was detained last month, was excluded from the ballot because of a criminal case against him, the commission said. Valery Tsepkalo, a former ambassador who runs an office park for tech companies, was also rejected, after the commission disallowed some of the signatures supporting his candidacy.
The two are now standing behind Svetlana Tikhanouskaya who launched her campaign for president in place of her husband, a blogger who was arrested last month for threatening public order and now faces up to three years in prison.
Tikhanouskaya said the endorsement gave her the strength to continue contesting the election at a news conference alongside the head of Babariko's campaign and Tsepkalo's wife Veronika.
The two men had been widely seen as the last candidates left with a chance of defeating Lukashenko, who faces his strongest opposition in years as frustration mounts over the economy, human rights and his playing down of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lukashenko dismissed Western criticism on Wednesday (July 15) saying that said countries such as France and the United States had used greater force against protesters and accused the West of double standards.
Lukashenko, who has allowed little dissent in his 26-year rule, is all but certain to win the Aug. 9 election but public frustration is growing over the economy, human rights and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The central election commission refused to register Babariko because of a criminal case against him and barred Tsepkalo after disallowing some of the signatures supporting his candidacy.
Their exclusion prompted protests in the capital Minsk and, according to social media reports, in other cities.
(Production: Vladimir Kostin, Dmitry Turlyun)
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