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Belarus Sets Presidential Election For March

President Lukashenka is likely to run again (epa) 16 December 2005 -- Belarus's lower house of parliament today set 19 March as the date for next year's presidential election, in which President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is expected to stand for another term in office.

A total of 104 deputies voted for the date, with none against in the House of Representatives. It had earlier been suggested that the poll should take place in July.

First elected in 1994, Lukashenka is accused by the West of cracking down on opponents, silencing independent media, and rigging elections.

He has vowed to stamp out any attempt at a popular uprising, like the mass protests against election fraud that brought down the government in Ukraine in last year's Orange Revolution.

Both the European Union and the United States have pledged to toughen sanctions against Lukashenka's administration if the 2006 election proves neither free nor fair.


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