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Belarusian President Polling Nearly 90 Percent

The results of the eleciton mean Lukashenka will be in power through 2011 (epa) MINSK, March 19, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Early results from Belarus' presidential election today show the incumbent, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, with an overwhelming lead.

The Belarusian Central Election Commission (CEC) said that with 22 percent of the ballots counted, Lukashenka had won 88.5 percent of the vote. This puts Lukashenka within sight of an unprecedented third term. Victory would keep him in office until 2011. He has already ruled Belarus for 12 years.

The CEC said Alyaksandr Milinkevich, the main opposition candidate, took just 3.8 percent of the vote.

Behind him came two other candidates, pro-government lawmaker Syarhey Haydukevich with 2.8 percent and opposition figure Alyaksandr Kazulin with 1.5 percent.

Milinkevich has already dismissed the results as fraudulent. Shortly after polls closed, over 20,000 demonstrators gathered in Minsk's October Square to protest alleged election fraud.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports that some of those protesters have begun a procession along the short route to the city's Victory Square.

Around midnight, Milinkevich asked his supporters to disperse home, but called on them and other Belarusians to return to October Square for another protest tomorrow.

Ratcheting Up The Rhetoric

Ratcheting Up The Rhetoric

Alyaksandr Milinkevich attending an opposition rock concert on March18 in Minsk, where he first issued a call for protests (RFE/RL)

TOWARD A SHOWDOWN?: The main Belarusian opposition presidential candidate, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, and his campaign manager, Syarhey Kalyakin, spoke on March 19 at a news conference in Minsk. RFE/RL's Belarus Service provided excerpts from Milinkevich's remarks.

Milinkevich: I believe this civil confrontation can be resolved by repeating elections, in which representatives of all candidates will be represented in election commissions.

Milinkevich: This will not be a true result. It will be a result of falsifications that have been continuing for a long time. [The results] will be recognized neither by us nor the majority of the Belarusian population. They will not be recognized by democratic countries, it has already become obvious.

Milinkevich: I will be appealing to the good senses of the authorities. This conflict should not be escalated. It should not be fomented. A resolution should be found. Let's sit down to the negotiating table.

Milinkevich: I am absolutely confident that democratic countries will not recognize this election as legitimate. I very much hope that there will be quite a few serious politicians in Russia who will do the same.

Milinkevich: Those people who will overcome fear will come out in the streets. There was and still is fear being infused today by warnings of alleged terrorism, which has never been heard of in Belarus. So let's see how many people will come out. I will be grateful to everyone who comes out and says peacefully that we want to live like humans and not on our knees, in humiliation.

Click on the image to view a dedicated page with news, analysis, and background information about the Belarusian presidential ballot.

Click on the image to view RFE/RL's coverage of the election campaign in Belarusian and to listen to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.

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