COVID-19 and Trump’s indifference helped human rights abusers in 2020
Durov rejects Western funds’ offer to buy 5%-10% of Telegram with $30bn valuation
Belarusian government sees $2bn of withdrawals, issues $580mn worth of bonds in 2020
Lukashenko: I am no enemy of the people
One of Russia’s biggest wood product companies, Segezha could be Sistema’s next IPO
The volume of the Russian National Wealth Fund tops $183.93bn as gold overtakes dollar asset for first time
New Ukrainian VC firm QPDigital aims to invest up to $100 million in digital startups
EBRD investments reach record €11bn in pandemic-struck 2020
FPRI BMB Ukraine: Most Ukrainians are optimistic about 2021 – poll
OUTLOOK 2021 Lithuania
EBRD says loan to Estonia’s controversial Porto Franco project was never disbursed
Estonian premier quits after Tallinn development scandal
Top Centre Party official suspected of corruption in Tallinn real estate scandal
Czech Pirates and Mayors approve final coalition agreement for 2021 elections
OUTLOOK 2021 Czechia
BRICKS & MORTAR: Rosier future beckons for CEE retailers after year of change and disruption
Romanian tech entrepreneurs expand into banking sector
OUTLOOK 2021 Hungary
Hungarian government remains silent after Capitol riots
Storming parliaments: New Europe's greatest hits
World Bank expects modest recovery for Europe and Central Asia in 2021
FDI inflows to CEE down 58% in 1H20 but rebound expected
OUTLOOK 2021 Slovakia
Slovakia to invest €1.2bn in digitisation
BALKAN BLOG: The controversial recipe for building up Albania
Heavy flooding causes chaos in parts of Southeast Europe
Vodafone Albania plans €100mn infrastructure investments after AbCom merger
OUTLOOK 2021 Albania
Kyiv accuses Bosnian President Dodik of lying about icon gifted to Russian foreign minister
Bosnia’s real GDP contracts 6.3% y/y in 3Q20
Sofia-based LAUNCHub Ventures holds first close of new fund on €44mn
ING THINK: Growth in the Balkans: from zero to hero again?
OUTLOOK 2020 Bulgaria
Labour demand down 28% y/y in Croatia in 2020
Zagreb Stock Exchange's Crobex10 index at highest level since March 5
OUTLOOK 2021 Kosovo
Arrera Automobili aims to launch Albania’s first supercar
World Bank revises projection for Moldova’s 2020 GDP decline to 7.2%
Moldova’s PM resigns to prepare the ground for early elections
Socialist lawmakers in Moldova scrap settlement on $1bn bank frauds
Montenegro’s new ruling coalition carves up top state jobs
OUTLOOK 2021 Montenegro
Vast tide of floating waste threatens Balkan hydropower plants
North Macedonia's manufacturing confidence indicator down by 8.5 pp y/y in December
OUTLOOK 2021 North Macedonia
Transparency International warns of high corruption risk in CEE defence sectors
Moldova fears flooding from Ukraine's planned Dniester hydropower plants
Romania’s industrial recovery paused in November
OUTLOOK 2021 Serbia
Slovenia’s government to release funds to news agency STA after EU pressure
UK Moneyhub picks Slovenia for post-Brexit European base
Slovenia’s dire COVID-19 situation in 4Q20 caused second economic dip
Slovenia’s Eligma completes €4mn funding round
Turkish opposition leader lawsuit demands one lira from Erdogan, police probe “bald” interior minister posts
Akbank takes over Istanbul's Palladium Atasehir shopping mall
Armenia’s PM cautions conflict with Azerbaijan “still not settled” after trilateral meeting with Putin
Armenia prepares to ban Turkish imports
COMMENT: Record high debt levels will slow post-coronavirus recovery, threaten some countries' financial stability, says IIF
Russia, Kazakhstan pushing for oil production increases on the back of coronavirus vaccine-fuelled oil price optimism
OUTLOOK 2021 Georgia
Georgia’s political kingpin Bidzina Ivanishvili quits politics
Modern-day “Robin Hood” inspires Georgians drowning in debt
Iran’s navy conducts missile drill while analyst argues Trump even capable of nuclear strike in final days
TEHRAN BLOG: Who’s more credible? Johnson backing Trump’s Nobel chances or Iran applauding arrest warrant for US president?
Central Asia vaccination plans underwhelm, but governments look unruffled
Fears of authoritarianism as Kyrgyz populist wins landslide and backing for ‘Khanstitution’
OUTLOOK 2021 Kyrgyzstan
Mongolia's winter dzud set to be one of most extreme on record says Red Cross
Mongolian coal exports to China paralysed as Beijing demands virus testing of truck drivers
Mongolia fears economic damage as country faces up to its first local transmissions of coronavirus
Mongolia in lockdown after suffering first local coronavirus transmissions
OUTLOOK 2021 Tajikistan
China business briefing: Not happy with Kyrgyzstan
OUTLOOK 2021 Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan: How the Grinch stole New Year
Turkmenistan: The dammed united
COMMENT: Uzbekistan is being transformed, but where are the democratic reforms?
OUTLOOK 2021 Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan’s Makro positions itself for growth in a more competitive market
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There will be no independent observers for the August 9 Belarusian presidential elections, giving the authorities a free hand to fix the result. And it remains unclear who will be allowed to run, but if one of the two remaining opposition candidates is accepted the other may drop out to focus the vote in opposition to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.
The Belarusian Central Election Commission (CEC) announced that it would not have a press centre or a running tally of vote counting on election day. The results of the highly contested vote will be only announced the next day after vote counting is completed, the organisation said on June 7.
The OSCE also announced that it will not be sending any observers to the election. At the same time, independent observers and exit polls conducted by anyone other than the state accredited authorities are illegal in Belarus.
Seven candidates submitted applications to run in the race, including three opposition candidates that hope to oust the incumbent Belarus President, Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years.
The country has been swept by unprecedented but low-level street protests following the arrest of ex-banker and leading opposition candidate Viktor Babariko, who is currently the front-runner amongst the non-establishment candidates. Popular blogger Sergey Tikhanovsky has also be arrested and was unable to submit an application to run in the race, but his wife Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is standing in his place.
Former diplomat, businessman and one-time Lukashenko aide Valery Tsepkalo is the third leading opposition candidate, but he has already been excluded from the race after the CEC rejected almost half his signatures on a mandatory petition to run, bring his total to less than the 100,000 needed to qualify for the race.
Lukashenko is of course running and submitted over 2mn signatures. The other three candidates are pro-regime and widely seen as straw men who are in the race to give it a veneer of legitimacy.
The CEC is currently considering the applications for the six remaining candidates and will announce the final list on July 14. Although the organ has accepted enough signatures for all the remaining candidates to run, there are several other grounds under the election rules that it can reject an application.
Observers doubt that Babariko will be allowed to progress to the race, despite the fact that he will be hindered in his campaign, as he remains in pre-trial detention in a KGB prison cell. Criminals are barred from running in the presidential race, but as Babariko has yet to stand trial for the charges of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering brought against him, technically he is still eligible to stand.
However, Babariko is vulnerable to other rules that could preclude him. Candidates must submit detailed income statements listing not only their own assets but those of their immediate family. Babariko declared just under $1mn worth of savings and assets, and after running one of Belarus’ biggest commercial banks, is a wealthy man. However, as the KGB has already accused Babariko of embezzling some $430mn, it is possible the CEC will find something wrong with his income statement.
Another rule bans anyone who receives campaign funds from a foreign power and Babariko’s Belgazprombank is ultimately owned by Russia’s national gas company Gazprom. Lukashenko has already publically accused the opposition leaders of being puppets of Poland and Russia that are trying to interfere in Belarus’ domestic politics.
The local liberal press have suggested that if any one of the opposition candidates make it into the race then the others should withdraw in order to rally the protest vote behind a single name to maximise their chances of winner.
According to the local newspaper Nasha Niva, Tikhanovskaya says she is ready to withdraw from the race and endorse Babariko, should he become an official candidate in the race.
From the remaining three candidates that are seen as spoilers, Andrei Dmitriev and Sergei Cherechen has suggested they might also withdraw from the race if their applications are approved. That would leave the remaining pro-regime Anna Kanopatskaya as the only other contender, who is, “on her way to becoming the most despised person in Belarus,” according to Tadeusz Giczan, an academic in London who studies Belarusian politics.
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