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U.S. Says Behind Veneer, Belarus President Holds All Power

Bearusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka at an October press conference in Minsk
Although Belarus has a bicameral national legislature and a governing cabinet under a prime minister, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has directly run all the country's institutions since he was elected president in 1994, according to the State Department's annual Human Rights Report for 2009.

It says Belarus human rights record remained "very poor" in 2009 and accuses Lukashenka of undermining the rule of law and manipulating elections since 1994.

It adds that the parliamentary vote in September 2008 did not meet international standards.

Civil liberties also were strictly curtailed in 2009, including freedoms of the press, speech, assembly, association, and religion.

Corruption also was a problem in Belarus during 2009.

The report also highlighted discrimination against the ethnic Polish population and Roma.

It said authorities continued to harass the unrecognized Union of Poles, its head Andzelika Borys, and her associates.

compiled from agency reports