Society in the authoritarian discourse
The case of the 2020 presidential election in Belarus
In August 2020, the presidential election took place in Belarus, followed by unprecedented mass protests due to apparent election fraud. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, the country’s long-term authoritarian leader, faced the biggest electoral challenge since his first election in 1994. This article analyzes his official rhetoric during the campaign and after the election focusing on the image of the society. For this purpose, discourse-historical approach is applied to understand his political vision of the developments in Belarus and to explore changes in his rhetoric caused by the unprecedented challenge to his power. The research demonstrates that Lukashenka acts as a classical authoritarian ruler with respective discursive strategies. The text shows that he adopted the imaginary role of Belarus’s strict father, who has assumed full responsibility for its fate and offensively reacts to every challenger of this role. It also reveals that Lukashenka sees his personal contract with the Belarusian society as a stable and durable instrument that does not require changes and per se implies his personal engagement as a party to it. Finally, the analysis of Lukashenka’s rhetoric in 2020 suggests that a voluntary transition of power in Belarus remains rather wishful thinking.
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