Opposition shut out in Belarus election

Boycott preceded parliamentary vote that critics say was rigged in favour of long-serving President Alexandr Lukashenko.

Belarus announces 73.4 per cent turnout
Protests after the president's victory in 2004 were brutally repressed [AFP]

Official results in Belarus’ parliamentary election have delivered an overwhelming victory to parties allied with President Alexandr Lukashenko, meeting predictions by opposition groups who boycotted the vote and claimed it would again be rigged for the president. 

Lidiya Yermoshina, Central Elections Commission chairwoman, said on Monday that 74.3 per cent of eligible voters had turned out and played down more sceptical assessments by independent election observers, saying that only official turnout tallies would be considered. 

There were no runoffs, and Yermoshina said that all but one of the 110 seats in parliament had been assigned. 

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Minsk, said the election represented “no challenge whatsoever to power, no challenge to the status quo” and guaranteed another four years for a legislature long considered a rubber stamp for Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet nation since 1994.

“If this time anyone has doubts about the choices of the Belorusian people … then I don’t know how I should run the elections,” the president said in televised remarks.

Every poll since Lukeshenko’s rise has been criticised as undemocratic by Western observers.

‘Worst standards’

Local independent observers estimated the overall turnout as being almost 19 per cent lower than the official 74.3 per cent figure.

“Belarus gets ever closer to the worst standards of Soviet elections,” Valentin Stefanovich, co-ordinator of the Rights Activists for Free Elections group, said.

At least 20 independent election observers were detained, according to rights activists.

Belarus politician looks to unite opposition

Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the US state department, said that the election “fell short of international standards” and urged authorities to “take steps to meet Belarus’s international commitments to hold genuinely democratic elections and to foster respect for human rights”.

Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, condemned the alleged widespread irregularities in the polls.

Lukashenko’s landslide win in a 2010 presidential election triggered a mass street protest that was brutally suppressed.

Longtime opposition figure and politician Stanislav Shushkevich told Al Jazeera there were “no democratic-minded people” on the country’s election comission and called the vote “a joke”.

The opposition had hoped to use this election to build support, but 33 out of 35 candidates from the United Civil Party were barred from television, while the state-owned press refused to publish their election programmes.

About 40 candidates from communist and leftist groups critical of Lukashenko still ran, but they were not expected to make it into the parliament, which has been fully occupied by government loyalists since the last three opposition members lost their seats in 2004.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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