Minsk, 16 October 2000 (RFE/RL) - Senior European observers are criticizing yesterday's Belarusian parliamentary elections, and Belarus opposition leaders said turnout was under the required 50 percent need for them to be valid. Officials from the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament said in a joint statement that the elections failed to meet international standards for democratic elections. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has rejected the criticism. Election officials announced that the turnout was about 60 percent, but Belarusian opposition leader Anatoliy Lebedko said turnout was about 45 percent throughout the country, with lower participation in large cities. In the capital, Minsk, the official turnout was 49 percent. The opposition proclaimed their boycott of the elections a success. Preliminary official results are expected later today.
Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned Lukashenka and congratulated him on the conduct of free elections.