MOSCOW -- Belarus' upcoming election on Aug. 9 was supposed to be yet another coronation ceremony for President Alexander Lukashenko. Instead, with the date fast approaching, the man regarded by some as "Europe's last dictator" is facing the toughest challenge of his three-decade rule -- presenting an uncomfortable conundrum for China.
Mass demonstrations against Lukashenko's rule have erupted in recent months across the small Eastern European nation of 9.5 million people. Earlier this week, protests broke out again after the election commission rejected the applications of two strong Lukashenko challengers -- Valery Tsepkalo and Viktor Babariko -- with media reports of hundreds of arrests. Previously, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians had signed petitions to register opposition candidates for the polls.