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Belarus Officials Say Nearly 20 Percent Cast Early Ballots; Critics Say Vote Farce

Students line up to vote early at a polling station in Vitsebsk on September 22.
Belarusian election authorities say nearly 20 percent of registered voters have already cast their ballots in early voting ahead of parliamentary elections.

The opposition has denounced the September 23 elections as a farce and says the early voting system is being used to manipulate the results because of the poor electoral supervision involved.

The elections are expected to elect a rubber-stamp parliament, with most powers remaining in the hands of authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The opposition says the election is the worst yet during Lukashenka's 18-year rule.

It has called on voters to boycott the election, and two main opposition parties last weekend withdrew their candidates.

Leaders of six opposition groups said on September 21 that an election boycott would be a vote of no confidence in Lukashenka's regime.

Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax