Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York) warned against the threat of renewed Russian electoral interference, pointing to a recent Belarussian election that is widely viewed as having been fixed in the incumbent’s favor.
“Putin, and his like-minded strongman allies, will continue to interfere in elections and will grow bolder with their tactics because there have been no serious consequences,” Sires said. “We know that Putin interfered in the 2016 election to ensure Donald Trump would win and efforts to strengthen our electoral integrity have been blocked. I strongly believe, as we approach the 2020 election, Putin will ramp up his efforts to destabilize trust in our electoral system and will do everything in his power to prevent his chosen candidate from losing to Vice President Joe Biden.”
The highly-suspect results of the Aug. 9 election showed longtime Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko defeating challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya 80%-10%. Tsikhanouskaya, who has since fled the country, claimed she won the first round of voting with 60% of the vote.
After the disappearance of Maria Kolesnikova, a leader of the protests spawned in the wake of the election, Sires warned Lukashenko was adopting practices favored by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Reports of the disappearance of opposition leaders in Belarus are highly disturbing and part of a pattern of suppression by Russia and leaders supported by Putin. In numerous nations, Putin has repeatedly used unsavory, illegal, and violent means to influence electoral results in favor of candidates he supports. In France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Finland, the United States and more, Putin has used a combination of financial patronage, cyberattacks, and disinformation campaigns to erode trust in democratic institution and create a false narrative to confuse and sway voters,” Sires said.