This week, elections are held in Sri Lanka and Belarus. The outcome of both elections could have geopolitical implications for years to come.
Developments in Belarus have always been closely monitored by policymakers due to its strategic location in the borderland region between Russia and the West. This year’s presidential election is especially interesting due to the increasing popularity of opposition candidates. Preliminary polls indicate that it will be a tight race, however, the opposition is unlikely to win given the country’s history of electoral manipulation. Nevertheless, signs of electoral fraud could result in widespread protests across the country.
Given the current participation of the public in opposition activity, the size and persistence of these protests could be unprecedented. As a result of the pro-Western orientation of the opposition, Russia is likely to go to great lengths to prevent these protests from resulting in regime change. As such, Moscow (and the West) will keep a close eye on the election results.
The parliamentary elections held on August 5 produced a landslide victory for the governing party and will likely move the country closer to China. The Sri Lanka’s People’s Front is led by current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, his elder brother and former president. The party now controls 145 of the 225 seats in parliament and is expected to form a coalition to ensure itself of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.
This super majority will be needed to roll back constitutional amendments made under the previous government that curbed presidential power. If the Rajapaksa’s succeed, China’s influence in the country could increase significantly. China already expanded its influence in Sri Lanka when former President Mahindi Rajapaksa used Chinese loans to engage in large infrastructure projects. Given Sri Lanka’s proximity to India, New Delhi is likely to view these developments with appropriate suspicion.