Sviatlana Heorhiyeuna Pilipchuk
11 September 1982
Mikashevichy, Byelorussian SSR, Soviet Union
|Alma mater||Mozyr State Pedagogical University|
|Occupation||Teacher, interpreter, politician|
Sviatlana Heorhiyeuna Tsikhanouskaya or Svetlana Georgiyevna Tikhanovskaya (née Pilipchuk; Belarusian: Святлана Георгіеўна Ціханоўская (Піліпчук) [sʲvʲaˈtlana ɣʲɛˈɔrɣʲijɛwna t͡sʲixaˈnɔwskaja pʲilʲipˈt͡ʂuk];[a] Russian: Светлана Георгиевна Тихановская (Пилипчук) [svʲɪˈtlanə ɡʲɪˈorɡʲɪ(j)ɪvnə tʲɪxɐˈnofskəjə pʲɪlʲɪpˈtɕuk]; born 11 September 1982) is a Belarusian human rights activist and politician who ran in the 2020 Belarusian presidential election as the main opposition candidate. She is married to activist Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was a candidate in the same election until his arrest on 29 May 2020; she subsequently announced her intention to run in his place.
The incumbent Alexander Lukashenko was officially declared the victor in the election marred by allegations of widespread electoral fraud. Subsequently, Tsikhanouskaya claimed to have received between 60 and 70% of the vote and has appealed to Western countries to recognise her as the winner, although they instead called for a re-run and no longer recognize Lukashenko as president.
Before running for president, Tsikhanouskaya was an English teacher and interpreter. She spent many summers in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, as part of a programme for children affected by the Chernobyl disaster. She is married to YouTuber, blogger, and activist Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was arrested in May 2020. The couple has a son and a daughter.
2020 Belarusian presidential election campaign
After her husband's arrest on 29 May, Tsikhanouskaya announced her intention to run in his place. She registered as an Independent candidate on 14 July 2020. After registering, she was endorsed by the campaigns of Valery Tsepkalo and Viktar Babaryka, two prominent opposition politicians who were barred from registering, with one being arrested and the other fleeing the country. A photo of Tsikhanouskaya with Maria Kolesnikova, Babaryka's campaign chief, and Veronika Tsepkalo, Valery Tsepkalo's wife, has become a symbol of her campaign.
The night before the election, police detained senior staffers from Tsikhanouskaya's campaign and she chose to go into hiding in Minsk, before re-emerging on election day at a polling station.
Before the presidential campaign, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko insisted the country was not ready for a female president. Her campaign began as Amnesty International condemned Belarus's discriminatory treatment of women opposition activists, including threats of sexual violence and threats by authorities to take children away from opposition figures and send them to state-run orphanages. In response to the threats, Tsikhanouskaya sent her children abroad to live with their grandmother. She has said she has repeatedly been threatened, recounting a phone call saying, "We will put you behind bars and place your children in an orphanage." Tsikhanouskaya said she nevertheless decided to persevere in her campaign: "There must be a symbol of freedom."
Tsikhanouskaya said that she ran for president out of love, to free her husband from prison. She has vowed to free all political prisoners in Belarus, to introduce democratic reforms to the country, and to move away from the union treaty with Russia, which many Belarusian opposition figures view as an infringement on the country's sovereignty. She has also pledged to set a referendum on returning to the original draft of the 1994 Belarusian constitution, reinstating a limit of two terms for the president. She has said that her main goal is to establish free and fair elections. She views the current election as illegitimate due to the government's refusal to register Lukashenko's main political opponents as candidates. She has pledged to deliver a plan for transparent and accountable elections within six months of taking office.
Tsikhanouskaya's economic platform emphasizes increasing the importance of small and medium sized businesses in the Belarusian economy. She plans to offer interest free loans to small and medium sized businesses, cancel state inspections of private entities and provide legal protection for foreign investors. Tsikhanouskaya intends to allow profitable state owned enterprises to continue to operate, while requiring unprofitable state owned enterprises to get help from outside professionals.
Though running as an independent, Tsikhanouskaya has attracted support from across the spectrum of Belarus's political opposition. Vital Rymašeŭski, co-leader of Belarusian Christian Democracy, announced his party's support, as did the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Assembly), United Civic Party of Belarus and Belarusian Women's Party "Nadzieja". She has also received support from 2010 presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich. Ivonka Survilla, President of the Rada of the Belarusian People's Republic expressed her support for Tsikhanouskaya.
The official results published by the Central Election Commission of Belarus gave Tsikhanouskaya 588,622 votes, or 10.12% of the vote, to Lukashenko's 80.10%. However, allegations of wide-spread fraud were immediately made public, including a formal complaint to the Central Election Commission (CEC) by Tsikhanouskaya.
After the elections, Tsikhanouskaya was forced to flee to Lithuania in fear of repercussions, which could have possibly affected her children. On 11 August, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius announced that Tsikhanouskaya was "safe" in Lithuania while also acknowledging that she had "few options". The President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda spoke with her upon arrival in Lithuania. On 11 August, the KGB of Belarus announced that an attempt was being made on Tsikhanouskaya's life, saying that the protesters needed a "sacred sacrifice". The Polish government has allotted a residence for Tsikhanouskaya and other members of the Belarusian opposition in the Praga-Południe district of Warsaw. She opened the residence along with the Belarusian House in Warsaw during a visit to Warsaw a couple days later where she met with Polish Premier Mateusz Morawiecki. Her fellow opposition activist Valery Tsepkalo has also moved to Poland from Ukraine.
On 14 August, Tsikhanouskaya released a video in which she claimed to have defeated Lukashenko in the first round by a decisive margin, with as little as 60% of the vote and as much as 70%. She appealed to the international community to recognise her as the winner. Tsikhanouskaya also announced the establishment of a Coordination Council to handle the transfer of power from Lukashenko. Applications for membership in the council were open to any Belarusian citizen who recognised the election as having been falsified, and who was trusted by a social group by being an authoritative figure such as a doctor, a teacher, a business leader, an author or a sportsperson.
On 20 August, Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis invited Tsikhanouskaya to his office and publicly referred to her as "the national leader of Belarus". On 31 August, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was invited to address the United Nations Security Council.
On 8 September, Tsikhanouskaya addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. She called for sanctions against Lukashenko, and "stated that Lukashenko doesn't have any legitimacy after stealing the vote, warning other countries against making any deals with the Belarussian government", and said that "He does not represent Belarus any more."
On 9 September, Tsikhanouskaya said that the Belarusian opposition wants to have good relations with all nations, including Russia: "We cannot turn away from Russia because it will always be our neighbor, and we need to have good relations with them."
On 10 September, a law was passed by the Lithuanian Parliament which recognises Tsikhanouskaya as the "elected leader of the people of Belarus" and the Coordination Council as the "only legitimate representatives of the Belarusian people". The resolution also declares that Lukashenko is an "illegitimate leader".
- also Śviatłana Hieorhijeŭna Cichanoŭskaja in the Belarusian Latin alphabet
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However, the vote was marred by allegations of widespread fraud. These suspicions appeared to be confirmed by data from a limited number of polling stations that broke ranks with the government and identified opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya as the clear winner.
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I am ready to take responsibility and act as a national leader during this period. In order for the country to calm down, it has entered a normal rhythm.
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