Dark day for democracy

By: The Brandon Sun

The tyrant has triumphed again. Alexander Lukashenko, Europe's last dictator, has once again left a dark stain on Western democracy with his blatantly fraudulent victory in the Belarus election on Sunday.

The result is hardly a surprise: Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet state with an iron fist for 12 years, had shown signs that dissent and opposition would not be tolerated as he worked for his third win at the ballot box. But what's surprising is how little outcry there has been from the newly elected government in Ottawa over yet another attempt to steal an election in a new democracy.

Yesterday, Lukashenko's questionable "win" elicited only silence from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government. Despite the plethora of observations that the vote was rigged and the diabolical pledge by the Belarusian president to "break the neck" of any opposition pressure to stage new elections, Canada's government has not stepped forward to denounce such a slap in the face to democracy.

The parallels between Belarus and the situation in Ukraine last Christmas are too striking to ignore. The first flawed Ukrainian election - which prompted the so-called Orange Revolution after a pro-Western candidate initially lost a questionable vote to his pro-Russian rival - prompted Canada and other Western countries to step forward and encourage new elections. While there is no guarantee someone other than Lukashenko would win in a new contest, it is important that Canada demand the same thing, in the name of free and fair elections, for Belarus.

Already, the European Union has said it will likely impose new sanctions on the rogue republic, Reuters reported. If we don't do that, we must at the very least denounce all of the examples of authoritarianism - the beating of reporters, the jailing of opposition officials, the stifling of protests, etc. - leading up to the vote.

If we consider ourselves a shining light of peace and democracy in the world, we must offer the opposition in Belarus the same support we have to pro-democratic regimes in Afghanistan, Georgia and Ukraine. The beacon must be beamed everywhere, not just where it's easiest for us to do so.