Speech by presidential candidate Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya

Earlier today Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya made a speech at Belarus 1 TV channel. Read and share with friends!

Good afternoon, dear Belarusians! This is presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya speaking. This is just the second time you have seen me on TV, as our current authorities are afraid that you are going to like me, so they only allow one person to be on your TV screens.

I am 37 years old, I am a teacher and philologist by education. I have worked as a secretary and a translator, I am fluent in Belarusian, Russian and English. I am not a politician, my husband Siarhei Tsikhanousky wanted to become the President of Belarus, and that is the reason he is now in prison. So I want to become president to restore justice in this country.

My husband lost a third of his weight while he was in solitary confinement, I had to move my children abroad because the authorities threatened them. My associate, Veranika Tsapkala, had to urgently send her children out of the country because there was a threat to her children as well. Valery Tsapkala has left Belarus after getting information about his impending arrest. Viktar Babaryka is facing another far-fetched fabricated charge. This is what happened in the past few days.

However, we have some good news as well. Together with my companions in arms, Maria Kalesnikava and Veranika Tsapkala, I have travelled around 10 Belarusian cities and towns with rallies, and it was absolutely incredible! Thousands of people came every time. Tens of thousands of passionate people of different ages and trades — pensioners, students, blue collar workers, entrepreneurs. They all want to change the current regime, they all want to bring about change. I am grateful to them for it, I am grateful to you for it. This week we will continue to do rallies in the cities and speak to you.

A year ago, my husband Siarhei Tsikhanousky created his project “The Country to Live In”. The project that made the authorities afraid. He spoke about the disorder and chaos, corruption and mismanagement, he met people of different trades, he travelled round Belarus and listened to ordinary people from villages and towns. Their words carried a lot of pain, disappointment and frustration at the dismal conditions they had to live in. These were frank accounts of what real life now looks for the majority of Belarusians, while their rulers drive luxury cars, fly insanely expensive planes and live in golden palaces. Now Siarhei is behind bars for having his opinion, and I am in his place. I go round the country and speak to Belarusians who want a different life.
I have decided to continue what my husband started and register as a presidential candidate in his stead. The authorities have not allowed Siarhei Tsikhanousky and other strong candidates, Viktar Babaryka and Valery Tsapkala, to register, but they have allowed me to register. So it is now my mission, my main goal and my life purpose to make the hopes of Belarusians into reality. Help me do this. Help us all do this.

Our current president has not stayed in power for 26 years because the people want him to, but because he does not want to leave. They are trying to intimidate you, painting a bleak picture of Belarus in future with a new president. They are manipulating you, inventing unrealistic dangers and cheating you.

They are using scare tactics, trying to make you believe that you are going to have a Maidan unless you vote for the current regime.

In reality, that is not the case. I am a teacher by profession, my counterparts from the headquarters of Babarika and Tsapkala are a musician and a manger. Their supporters, my supporters and supporters of my husband Siarhei Tsikhanousky are ordinary Belarusians of different occupations. They are doctors, retirees, blue collar workers, students, businessmen, teachers, salesmen, librarians and engineers. The one opposing all these peaceful people is the commander-in-chief, who has power and weapons at hand. So who wants to organize a Maidan here? Is it him or it is us? We are calling for elections, and the authorities are calling for violent protests. We say that we want a new president, and the authorities say that we will have a Maidan then. We say that the majority of Belarusians want to live in a free rich country, and the authorities threaten us with a Maidan.

Imagine that you want a strange man to leave you house. He is being rude to you, he is walking on your carpets in his shoes, he is smacking your children, trampling your lawn, he is shouting and scaring you. You ask him to leave, and he says that if you kick him out, he is going to use force. “Do you want a Maidan?”, the authorities are asking us. No, we do not. And we are not going to let them organize one. When this regime changes, there will not be a Maidan. There will be a celebration.

You are being told that without the current government, Belarus is going to be handed to Russia and NATO, and there will be a war.

This is not the case. The independence of Belarus is of highest value to us. The sovereignty is of highest value. But we have not been trying to sell off or use it as leverage for years and years, as the current authorities have. They say that if Belarusians are not going to be obedient, if Belarusians are not going to serve the regime or tolerate it, they are going to hand the country over to someone. Imagine that a strange man says that he is going to deprive your child of their freedom, hand them over to someone else, or send them to an orphanage, unless you obey him. “Do you want to lose your independence?”, the authorities are asking. No, we do not. And we are not going to allow the authorities do that to us. When this regime changes, we will not lose independence. We will find freedom.

You are being told that without the current government, you will no longer have pensions.

That is not the case. The authorities are leveraging pensions against you — pensions that are, frankly, a pittance. The authorities are not the ones who pay you your pensions – these are covered by your children and grandchildren who pay taxes, and then take money out of their salaries to send to their parents, because you cannot live on those. If your grandchildren emigrate, there will be no one left to pay the pensions. And they will emigrate if we cross the twenty-six-year milestone and stay with this regime. People who have worked their whole life must be able to buy meat and not just the cheapest loaf of bread they can find. They must be able to play with their grandchildren instead of selling berries off the highway so they can afford to buy themselves basic medication. We know how to make the pensions several times bigger. We do not need 17 residences, like the current President, we do not need private jets that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, we do not need lavish parties for the president and his family that are paid for by the people. We will not spend the taxes paid by your children and grandchildren to entertain ourselves, like the current government does. We are going to use this money to pay out pensions, because it is our sacred responsibility. Imagine that your boss has taken a chunk of your salary and spent it on a dinner in a restaurant, while you are taking your evening bus home after a hard day’s work, and he says that you are supposed to be grateful. “Do you want your pensions lowered?”, the authorities are asking. No, we do not. And we are not going to allow it. When this regime changes, the pensions are not going to decrease. The pensions will finally be enough for people to buy presents for grandkids.

You are being told that the economy will collapse, plants and factories will be sold and closed down, and the workers will be laid off. 

In fact, all of this has already happened. The economy is already collapsing, plants and factories are in arrears, and workers are being fired. Those employees who have not yet been laid off receive meager salaries and are forced to listen to boorish lectures from their superiors. Belarusian companies that were once the giants of the industry and the pride of our country now only have value as real estate that can be rented out. People work for pennies and risk losing even these pennies unless they vote for the current president. We know that production facilities in our country can be efficient if they are managed by competent professionals. At the moment, these competent people do not have access to these jobs, they are imprisoned, many of them have emigrated. There are many great managers, deserving specialists who know how to help our factories survive, to increase wages, to make companies profitable, and ensure that workers feel valued and respected. When this regime changes, these companies will not be closed. They will finally stop dragging the country’s economy and all of us down.

You are being told that no one but the current authorities knows how to manage the country.

In fact, the current authorities are the ones who cannot govern the state properly to make sure that people live a decent live instead of trying to survive from paycheck to paycheck, so that young people want to stay in the country. They are using opposition to scare you, but there is no opposition in Belarus. There are many smart, talented, courageous and creative people who are not given any access to government. The authorities are сutting hay, harvesting watermelons and sorting out potatoes, all the while making themselves rich, when half of the budget is funded by private companies. Imagine that your child’s school has a principal who is uneducated. He knows nothing of the school curriculum, cannot spell, comes to work drunk, disciplines children by hitting them on their hands with a ruler, but he receives an extravagant salary, even though he refuses to listen to any of the parents’ complaints and calls the police every time you start a conversation about electing a new principal. When this regime changes, Belarus will not become poor. It will finally stop looking like such a school.

The elections on August 9 are not going to be free and fair. Not one strong leader has been registered as a presidential candidate: Siarhei Tsikhanousky and Viktar Babaryka are behind bars, and Valery Tsapkala had to flee the country in order to avoid an arrest.

So, a major point of my programme is about holding new, honest and fair elections with all alternative candidates on the ballot and a transparent tally of votes. When you vote for me, you are voting for new, free and fair elections.

I have accepted support from the teams of Viktar Babaryka and Valery Tsapkala, and we cooperate with the best experts, public organizations and parties. We have formed a strong team to lead Belarus to a free and happy life. I am convinced that the majority of our citizens want the same, so I rely on your support and your participation.

In order for these elections take place, we need to unite.

I urge you not to vote early. If you vote early, your vote will go towards the current government. Managers who are forcing their employees to vote early must know that it is illegal and punishable by a fine of up to 15 basic units. I am asking you to come vote on August 9 (better do it in the afternoon), vote for me, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and protect your vote.

I, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, candidate for President of the Republic of Belarus, have something to ask from you, mys dear fellow Belarusians.

First, I urge you to not stay at home on August 9 – otherwise you are going to vote for the current president. If we stay at home and do not come to the polls,it will be a victory for the current government. The authorities have to understand that we are the absolute majority and we will never stay silent. The higher the turnout, the harder it is to steal our vote. The higher the turnout, the more obvious the fraud will be. Members of the Commission can face criminal prosecution for voter fraud. I ask them to remember this.

After we get the election results on August 9, 2020, which are going to be obvious to the whole country, everyone will have to respect the people’s choice, or we will have to defend our votes.

After I take office as president, I will take measures to keep the country stable and to organize fair elections. Everything will be finalized within six months. During this transitional period, the country will live in order and peace, and we will be working hard to organize new elections.

Second, look at this white ribbon. Remember it. Make such a ribbon out of anything you have at hand. Make a couple of ribbons and hand them out to people around you. Wear it now, and make sure to wear it on the election day. The white ribbon on your wrist is a symbol of the people who disagree with the authorities. It is a way to recognize our own, to see how many of us are out there, and to unite.

Third. Do not be idle. Come to our sanctioned rallies, talk to your family, hand out white ribbons, bring your friends to the polling station, argue with the authorities, make your voice heard.

Fourth. We have set up the “Voice” online platform. It is going to help us register our votes on election day. Find it, sign up and follow the prompts. This way we will be able to tally the real number of votes.

I am going to tell you about the country we can live in. In this country, I am walking along the street of my home town, and it is beautiful. It is well cared for and pretty, the residents of this town are the ones to choose their administrators, to decide what to build in the town, they can express their opinion freely, and it is taken into account. People who commute to work in a larger town nearby are not keen on moving there. There is no need. It is nice and pleasant to live in your home town, so why go to a noisy city? It is quiet and easy to breathe here, you are friendly with your neighbours who you have known since childhood, the local hospital is nice and clean, you have good access to healthcare, great shops, and a job with a decent salary. The town has a factory and a plant, which is where most residents work. The factory and the plant are the pride of our town and of the whole country. Engineers and workers have a good income, they get home from work in good spirits, they enjoy talking to their superiors, they are not afraid of officials coming down from the capital, and they are never reprimanded as if they are naughty schoolchildren.

Young people who go to study in Minsk and other cities are not afraid of the graduate placement programme. They will not be sent to work 200 km away from their home, because there is no forced work placement in the country. Journalism graduates are not forced to engage in propaganda and write untruthful articles for a state-owned country newspaper, and newly minted doctors and teachers are free to choose where they want to work. The unemployed in this country are not taxed, instead they receive a decent monthly allowance which is big enough to live off it for a month, not a day, so they can look for another job.

Our town has a lot of retirees, but there are quite a few young people as well. They are not dreaming of emigrating to another country, because they have everything they need right here — prospects, prosperity and respect. Young people often pay visits to their grandparents, sit down to have a cup of tea and talk. Young people do not have to beg their family not to vote for the current government. This government does not exist anymore, so the youth can lead their simple and happy life, study and work in peace. School teachers and university professors have high salaries. They do not have to waste their time doing repairs in school classrooms or go round their students’ homes, trying to force them to take part in another event organized by the state-run Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRYU). BRYU no longer bears that name, and membership is voluntary, but everyone actually wants to be a part of it. There are now scores of diverse youth organization like this one, and it is prestigious to be a member. They bring together a lot of great like-minded people, and no one is ever forced to work in the field “to help the farmers”.

In this country, television is not synonymous to “lies and propaganda”. TV is actually worth watching, and working for a TV station leaves your conscience clean. Public funds in this country benefit its people and not the authorities. The president travels in a regular car, flies a regular plane, and their bathroom is not gold plated. That is why pensions in this country are high, so grandparents can buy their grandchildren toys so they can spoil them, and they do not put off turning on the lights in their apartment in order to save on electricity. Their children are entrepreneurs. It is safe to do business in this country. The state does its best to create a business-friendly environment, as having more entrepreneurs means having more jobs and more taxes, which makes the country more prosperous. No one is behind bars for white collar crime. The country does not need many prisons, because people are not incarcerated on preposterous charges — for freethinking, for having an opinion, for standing outside, for intending to become president. Amnesty is a regular occurrence in this country and does not happen only when the government needs to placate the people.

In this country, law enforcement and the army are respected. And no wonder! These are our protectors. We are happy that our taxes go towards salaries of the people who protect us. No one can imagine that the government would ever make the security forces fight their own people, attack their fellow Belarusians with batons and shields, send four people at time to pound on a single protester because they are waving a flag, or pull a peaceful person out of line and drag them into the police van so brutally that it leaves bruises on their arms. And even if the authorities issued such a criminal order, the army and the police in this country would never actually fulfil it.

We visit villages where there is no devastation or desolation, and agriculture is our pride and joy, a thriving export industry with many farmers and households.

If this country is beset a disaster, a pandemic or a crisis, people are aware of what is happening. They are not lied to, and no one conceals the real number of cases and deaths. No one is using their health as a leverage, no one is trying to exchange it for an opportunity to stay president for longer — instead, everyone is doing their best to save the lives of family and friends.

Election day in this country is a celebration, not a day of fraud. Presidents here alternate, they do not stay in power for life, making themselves rich while their people live in poverty. 

We have never lived in such a country. And we can lose this country forever. Let us not allow it to happen together. We are the majority. Come to the polls on August 9 and vote for me, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. I am an ordinary person, an ordinary Belarusian, a woman, a mother who wants and can help us all live a life we all deserve. Let us build this country we can live in together!

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