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Belarus: Hancharyk Appeals To Election Officials

Minsk, 7 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Two days ahead of Belarus's presidential election, the chief opposition candidate, Uladzimir Hancharyk, appealed to electoral officials today to allow independent monitors to do their job. In comments published in the independent newspaper "Nasha Svoboda," Hancharyk, who will face President Alyaksandr Lukashenka along with another candidate in Sunday's (9 September) vote, said that it is in the electoral commission's power to protect the will of the voters.

Central Electoral Commission head Lidia Yermoshina said today that 715 international observers have been registered to monitor the fairness of the election. More than 7 million voters are expected to take part in the poll.

Early voting began 4 September. So far, just over 5 percent of voters have cast ballots.

Gerard Stoudman, a senior official with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), reiterated yesterday that the OSCE has serious doubts that Sunday's presidential election in Belarus will be democratic.

Also in Minsk today, protesters rallying today outside President Lukashenka's residence in the capital demanded information on the fate of Lukashenka opponents who have disappeared.

More than 30 opposition activists and relatives of missing people lined up holding pictures of the disappeared and placards with the legend, "We want to know the truth."

Opposition politicians accuse Lukashenka of culpability in the deaths or disappearances of a number of his political challengers. The president has said his government has had nothing to do with the disappearances. He has ordered official investigations.

For more on this Sunday's elections in Belarus, please see: Belarus: U.S. Urges Belarusians To Vote In Election, Belarus: OSCE's Official To Review Election With Open Mind, and Belarus: Voters To Elect President On 9 September.