Tuesday, Feb. 01, 2011

Alexander Lukashenko

Often described as the "last dictator in Europe," Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled this East European country for 16 years. To prop up his rule, opposition voices are routinely stifled and there is little to no independent media. Political opponents are often monitored by Belarus' secret police, still known in this former Soviet republic as the KGB. Lukashenko's control over the country began in 1996 when the parliament considered impeaching him. He promptly disbanded it. Lukashenko then handpicked the succeeding parliament and took control over the country's judiciary branch. Last December, the dictator was re-elected with 80% of the vote, but many independent observers reported widespread fraud. Since then, Lukashenko has led a brutal crackdown on political opponents, including some who ran against him in the presidential election. The international community has imposed sanctions against Belarus for his actions.