On July 14, Belarus' central electoral commission declined to register incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko's two most prominent opponents as candidates for a presidential election scheduled for next month.
Viktor Babariko, an ex-banker detained a month ago on money-laundering and bribery charges, was excluded from the ballot because the criminal investigation against him, according to the election commission.
Another strong challenger, Valery Tsepkalo, a former ambassador to the United States and founder of a successful high-tech park in Belarus' capital, Minsk, was also rejected after a large proportion of signatures supporting his presidential bid were nullified.
Babariko and Tsepkalo, both of whom had no political experience before they announced their presidential bids this May, had been widely considered as the strongest contenders against Lukashenko, as the incumbent president, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, faced popular frustration over the economy and his handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Apart from Lukashenko, the central electoral commission has registered Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the wife of popular opposition blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, who has been jailed for several weeks following anti-Lukashenko protests in May, and three obscure candidates, Anna Kanopatskaya, Andrei Dmitriyev and Sergei Cherechen.
The election is scheduled for August 9.