Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Meet Olga Kovalkova: The Feminist Leader For Democracy

By Mia Peralta , in Belarus Election Integrity Human Rights Journalists , at October 16, 2020

(Оппозиции, Координационный. Создание Координационного Совета: Итоги Пресс-Конференции, 18 Aug. 2020, rada.vision/sozdanie-koordinacyonnogo-soveta.)

Olga Kovalkova, also known as Volha Kovalkova, is a Belarusian politician who wants to be a presidential candidate, even though she admits there is no real election in Belarus. She is a co-chairman for the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party and a member of the Coordination Council (BelarusFeed, 2019). A council dedicated to free the people of Belarus from a restrictive regime into a country that holds the merit of a real democracy (Reuters, 2020).

“People want to see an alternative… there are no real elections in Belarus…we need to go beyond the scenario the government offers each campaign.” – Kovalkova (BelarusFeed, 2019)

Kovalkova is Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s authorized representative (KASSABOV, 2020). Being endorsed by Tsikhanouskaya has brought more attention to her activism and set off Belarusian officials — who are even more hostile now than ever due to protests from the 2020 election.

Western political scientists say the Belarusian government rigged the 2020 election; however, the Belarusian government denies any mishandling of votes. The two leading candidates were Lukashenko, the current ruler who has been in office since 1994, and Tsikhanouskaya, who is seen as the leader of the resistance. Tsikhanouskaya began running for office after her husband was imprisoned and could no longer run (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 2020)

Tsikhanouskay was said to have won the election; however, Lukashenko went into office instead, since the Belarusian government changed the result of the election in Lukashenko’s favor. Once Lukashenko was declared president, Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania since she feared for her and her children’s safety (Kennedy, 2020). People were outraged and protested, so the Coordination Council formed as a measure to talk to the authorities and come to an agreement (Coordination Council, n.d.).

Because Tsikhanouskay was no longer in Belarus and Kovalkova was one of the Coordination Council leaders, Kovalkova was one of the biggest threats to the Belarusian government. Even though the council wants to accomplish its goals peacefully, Lukashenko claims they want to take control of Belarus’s government and therefore need to be stopped. 

“We are operating solely through legal means…The situation is critical. The authorities have no choice but to come to dialogue. The situation will only get worse.” – Kovalkova (Reuters, 2020)

Kovalkova was jailed for ten days along with Dyleuski, a colleague. The two of them were detained on August 24th. Pavel Latushko, another Coordination Council member, told reporters that the Coordination Council is doing nothing wrong or illegal. Authorities also questioned Latushko; however, he was not jailed. Kovalkova was released from jail and taken to the border of Belarus and Poland on September 5th (SBSNews, 2020). The government claimed she was released for medical reasons. With Kovalkova exiled to Poland, Tsikhanouskay announced that she would soon meet with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Lithuania declared her the leader of Belarus (ReutersStaff, 2020). Kovalkova did tell the media that she would still be politically active and would not give up on Belarus, even if she couldn’t be there physically (BELSAT, 2020).

“The authorities should see that there are more people who want change than those who are on the other side of the system… there are people who can dictate their conditions.” – Kovalkova (BelarusFeed, 2019).

Sources:

 ASSOCIATED PRESS. (2020, September 1). Belarus poll workers tell stories of fraud in presidential election. TheLosAngelesTimes. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-09-01/belarus-poll-workers-describe-fraud-presidential-election

BelarusFeed. (2019, November 26). Election 2020: Meet Four Women Ready To Rival President Lukashenko. BelarusFeed. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from BelarusFeed.com

BELSAT. (2020, September 6). Day 28 of peaceful protests in Belarus: student solidarity, women’s march, detentions. BELSAT. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://belsat.eu/en/news/day-28-of-peaceful-protests-in-belarus-student-solidarity-women-s-march-detentions/

Coordination Council. (n.d.). Coordination Council. Rada.vision. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://rada.vision/en

KASSABOV, O. (2020, August 30). BY OGNIAN KASSABOV Since Belarus’s disputed election, both President Alexander Lukashenko and the liberal opposition have recognized the importance of strike actions in deciding what happens next. But while there have been protests across Belarus’s major. Jacobin. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://jacobinmag.com/2020/08/belarus-election-lukashenko

Kennedy, R. (2020, August 11). Belarus election: Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya made ‘independent’ decision to flee to Lithuania. euronews. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.euronews.com/2020/08/11/belarus-election-opposition-sviatlana-tsikhanouskaya-now-safe-after-fleeing-to-lithuania

Reuters. (2020, August 20). Belarus opposition sets up council. TheGuamDailyPost. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.postguam.com/the_globe/world/belarus-opposition-sets-up-council/article_c1cc9d0e-e1cf-11ea-9a29-9f4eeb318949.html

Reuters. (2020, September 5). Belarusian Opposition Activist Kovalkova Leaves Country After Arrest. USNews. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2020-09-05/belarusian-opposition-activist-kovalkova-leaves-country-after-arrest

ReutersStaff. (2020, September 15). Belarus says Lithuania broke international law by recognising Tsikhanouskaya as leader. Reuters. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belarus-election-lithuania/belarus-says-lithuania-broke-international-law-by-recognising-tsikhanouskaya-as-leader-idUSKBN26615L

SBSNews. (2020, August 11). Two opposition leaders have been jailed in Belarus as protests continue. SBSNews. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.euronews.com/2020/08/11/belarus-election-opposition-sviatlana-tsikhanouskaya-now-safe-after-fleeing-to-lithuania