MINSK -- Belarusian officials say there has been low turnout at the start of early voting in nationwide local elections, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.
Central Election Commission Secretary Mikalay Lazavik told RFE/RL's Belarus Service today that some 3.6 percent of eligible voters cast ballots on April 20, the first day the polls opened. Voting will continue until April 25.
Although there are more than 21,000 seats on local councils being contested, there are only an estimated 360 opposition candidates competing against the pro-government candidates. Dozens of opposition candidates have withdrawn from the elections after claiming that the authorities were obstructing their campaign efforts.
In particular, the Belarusian Party of United Leftists "Just World" and the Party of the Belarusian National Front withdrew all of their candidates in Homel Oblast.
Another opposition group, the United Civic Party, announced a boycott and pulled out of the polls in all of Belarus's six regions.