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U.S. Says Belarus Election Neither Fair Nor Free


People are seen behind the curtain of a voting booth in Minsk during parliamentary elections on September 23.
The United States has criticized weekend parliamentary elections in Belarus as neither free nor fair.

The State Department cited a preliminary assessment from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which said the vote was "not competitive from the start" because of limited choice for voters, the election commission's lack of impartiality and an absence of proper counting procedures.

No opposition member won any of the 110 seats up for grabs in the September 23 parliamentary elections.

In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said better respect for democracy and human rights in Belarus, including the release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners, "remains central to improving bilateral relations with the United States."

Earlier, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said the vote "failed to meet international standards of fair and transparent polls."

Russia on September 25 called the vote free and open. In a statement, Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed regret over what it called a "special opinion" on the election by the OSCE's Office on Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The ministry said ODIHR's preliminary assessments were "dominated by a politicized approach."

Meanwhile, Anastasia Machenko, the leader of the independent Belarusian monitoring group Election Observation Theory and Practice, said police took fingerprints from her and her colleagues and released them after three hours without giving any reason.

Based on AFP and AP reporting