Last week Tikhanovskaya gave campaign speeches on national television and to crowds by the thousands in the capital Minsk, in small towns and villages.
Initially replacing her husband, a popular blogger prevented from running and jailed by authorities, she has established herself as a political candidate and is comfortable establishing a direct link with voters, her allies say.
“Its growth has been colossal,” said Maria Kolesnikova, the presidential campaign leader for another opposition politician, Viktor Babariko, who was excluded from the elections and imprisoned by the government and allied with Tikhanovskaya.
“It must be said that she is an extremely courageous and courageous woman. She took a huge load on herself, ”Kolesnikova said.
Protests in support of opposition candidates have been the biggest challenge in years for Lukashenko, amid his anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and grievances over the economy and human rights. In addition to imprisoning his main electoral rivals, he has detained hundreds of people as part of a crackdown on dissent.
Tikhanovskaya also had to make sacrifices. Last week, it was revealed that she had taken her children out of the country for their own safety, after being nearly chased out of the race by threats against her family. Her husband Sergei is still behind bars for participating in a rally in May.
“Yes, I was scared at first,” she said in a televised speech. “I know how far this government can go to keep its place. But I am no longer afraid.
In noisy election rallies, Tikhanovskaya and Kalesnikava were joined by Veronika Tsepkalo, a former Microsoft employee and campaign leader of her husband Valery Tsepkalo, who was also excluded from the race and fled the country with her children in Moscow on last week. he had been warned that an order had been given for his arrest.
In an explosive announcement earlier this month, the three women said they would unite their campaigns, connecting what are seen as complementary voters between wealthier urban voters and Lukashenko opponents in the countryside.Lukashenko, former director of the collective farm, has ruled the former Soviet country since 1994, suppressing and imprisoning opposition figures and organizing elections not deemed free and fair by European observers. He is generally expected to use his influence over the electoral authorities to help win the August election, and the opposition has said it fears the vote will be rigged.
Kolesnikova said the three women made the decision to unite in just a quarter of an hour. “We decided that it would be faster for three of us to speak,” she said. “We needed 15 minutes of conversation between the three of us, Svetlana, Veronika and I, to make a decision… And that was our victory.
The optics of the ad also caught the public’s attention. In the photos, together, Tsepkalo threw a peace sign, Tikhanovskaya raised his fist, and Kolesnikova formed both hands into a heart. A wave of reproductions and fan art followed.
“We believe that we are not a second kind, that we are equal to men and believe that we can win,” Tsepkalo said after the announcement, during a search in Lukashenko, who said that the policy should remain a male dominated sphere.
“Our constitution is not made for a woman,” he said. “Our society has not matured to the point of voting for a woman.” He also called them “poor things”.
Tikhanovskaya embraced her role as a reluctant candidate, saying she was not interested in running for politics, but was doing so out of a sense of duty.
“I adore my husband, so I continue his cause,” she told a crowd of several thousand voters in a blunt speech in Barysaw on Thursday. “I love my children and want them to grow up in a country where people don’t shut their mouths. I love Belarusians, so I want to give them the opportunity to choose. ”
She also appeared fluent in English in a BBC report in a segment that angered Lukashenko so much that he called for the expulsion of the country’s news agency, as well as local RFE / RL journalists.