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Parliamentary Elections In Belarus Declared Valid, Despite Boycott Calls

Belarusian President Votes In Parliamentary Electionsi
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September 23, 2012
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka voted with his son Mykalay at a polling station in Minsk in parliamentary elections that are expected to reinforce his iron grip on the country, despite a boycott call from the dispirited opposition.

Belarus's Central Election Commission has announced that the country's parliamentary elections are valid, as voter turnout passed the required 50 percent.

The country's two main opposition parties -- United Civic and the Belarusian People's Front -- called for a boycott of the vote, demanding the release of political prisoners.

The government responded with a barrage of advertisements urging people to vote.

Two other opposition parties, Just World and the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, are still in the race, while members of unregistered opposition movements are listed as unaffiliated candidates.

'Our People Believe'

Earlier, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka called those urging a boycott "cowards who have nothing to tell the people."

He noted that voter turnout is traditionally high in Belarusian elections and this is a sign that people have more confidence in the future than voters in Western countries do.

"If not many people vote, then it means that they simply don't believe in the political system and in those authorities who are functioning in this or that country," he said. "If I'm not mistaken, at your last political elections [in Finland], slightly more than 50 percent voted. In our country, 70 to 80 percent have always voted in the parliamentary elections.

"These are statistics; these are facts," he continued. "And during the presidential election, about 90 percent or even more than 90 percent [voted]. It means that our society is more awake than yours. It means that our people believe more in their prospects, in their future, and in those authorities who conduct those elections."

Lukashenka also said he hopes for improved relations with the West following the country's legislative vote.

PHOTO GALLERY: Getting out the vote in Belarus

  • Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, accompanied by his son Mykalay, casts his ballot at a polling station in Minsk.
  • Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich leaves a voting booth in Minsk.
  • A woman reads a ballot before casting her vote into a portable ballot box in the village of Slobodschina.
  • OSCE observers at a polling station in Vytebsk
  • A woman casts her vote at a maternity ward in Mogilev.
  • A woman holds her cat as she signs a form before casting her vote into a portable ballot box inside her house in the village of Slobodschina.
  • A woman signs a form to receive a ballot before casting her vote in a portable ballot box near her house in the village of Skuraty.
  • A voter casts her ballot in Minsk.
  • Soldiers read information about the candidates at a polling station in Minsk.
  • A soldier leaves a voting booth in Minsk.
  • In the village of Svidna
  • In the village of Svidna
  • In the village of Svidna

He rejected criticism of his country's democratic process, telling international election monitors they should "learn to organize elections the way it is done in Belarus -- openly and honestly."

"If this time around, once again, people have doubts about the choice of the Belarusian people, then I have no idea how to conduct elections --- according to which standards and according to which laws," he said.

In the last week, about a dozen opposition activists were arrested and thousands of flyers supporting the boycott were confiscated.

'I Just Guess'

Most voters interviewed in the eastern city of Mogilev by RFE/RL's Belarus Service were pessimistic about the outcome of the vote.

"Nothing will change. We don't have any real opposition," said one elderly voter. "In other countries, when one party beats another, then they have to keep their promises. But here we are just having some political theater. One group of nationalists took over from some others."

"What deputies?" asked another man. "I don't know a single deputy. I voted earlier and I didn't know a single deputy. When I vote, I just guess. I don't know the person. I don't know what he is capable of. What he can do. We are, as they say, in the dark. We come, we make our check marks, and we leave."

One elderly woman had a different view, however.

"Are you living badly? I'm doing fine. I get my pension and that is enough for me. What's wrong with that? Tell me, please!" she said. "We want to live like Europe, then we have to work like Europeans. It isn't Lukashenka's fault -- it is the local leaders who are to blame."

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has sent more than 270 observers to monitor the election.

The head of the monitoring mission sent by the Russia-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States, Sergei Lebedev, said the elections were held "quite democratically and openly."

Rubberstamp Parliament

Lukashenka has been president of Belarus since 1994 and is expected to retain control of the country's rubberstamp parliament.

Amnesty International said the run-up to the elections had been marred by the arrest and detention of opposition members.

The vote comes two years after Lukashenka won a fourth term.

The results of the presidential vote sparked confrontations in the capital, Minsk, between security forces and opposition activists who claimed the vote had been rigged.

Rights groups say some 15 political prisoners remain jailed out of the dozens arrested during a crackdown on the protests.


With reporting by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, ITAR-TASS, AFP, Interfax, Reuters, and AP
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous from Belarus from: Minsk
September 23, 2012 20:59
I come to polling station at 20 mins before closing. I saw the list of voters of my flathoouse. The voter turnout is about 20% It means elections were not held.
Rumors says that students were forced to early vote.

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
September 24, 2012 14:18
I repeatedly fail to find evidence to support the accusations and criticism of Lukashenko as "Europe's Last Dictator." It seems to me that he was placed in power and since held in power by the will of the people.

by: Jack from: US
September 24, 2012 15:40
all Lukashenko has to do to become a celebrated freedom fighter and a democrat is to declare his allegiance to Washington and demonstrate a compulsive desire to join a honorable club of NATO minions

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