Belarus has announced that the next presidential election will be held on August 9 as the country’s authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka sought to play down the risks of the coronavirus pandemic.
The election date was approved by the lower house of the parliament on May 8.
Lukashenka, who has led the former Soviet country since 1994, has expressed intentions to seek reelection to a sixth term.
Lukashenka said in November 2019 that he could also stand in 2025, while adding: “I won’t cling onto my seat with my cold dead hands.”
Belarus abolished presidential-term limits in a referendum in 2004.
It’s unclear who will run against Lukashenka.
Opposition politician Yury Gubarevich criticized the decision to go ahead with the election, saying: “The date of August 9 practically knocks out all political opponents [to Lukashenka].”
The campaign will fall at “the height of the coronavirus epidemic,” making it hard to gather signatures of support for candidates, he wrote on Facebook.
Belarus has reported 20,168 coronavirus cases and 116 deaths as of May 8. However, the country has not imposed a lockdown and continues to hold public events.
Lukashenka has repeatedly claimed the coronavirus is no worse than other winter bugs. He has also offered dubious tips on avoiding the virus, recommending drinking vodka and taking steam baths.