The European Union has called on Belarus to immediately work on a "serious and comprehensive" reform of the election law and processes following local elections in the country.
The spokeswoman for the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Maja Kocijancic, made the call on February 18, two days after Belarus held local elections.
A statement said the reform should be undertaken "as soon as possible" ahead of the next elections and its process should be "transparent and inclusive."
Such a reform should address "systemic shortcomings" identified by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe's Venice Commission following previous elections, it also said.
“This would also be an additional step toward reaching the full potential of EU-Belarus relations,” Kocijancic added.
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ODIHR and Venice Commission recommendations relate to the composition of election commissions, candidacy rights, observers’ rights, voting, counting, and tabulation. They recommend that the law should be interpreted and implemented to ensure genuine competition, the free expression of the will of the voters, and the integrity of the electoral process.
Rights groups say President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who was first elected in 1994, has systematically stifled dissenting voices and held onto power through elections and referendums deemed undemocratic by Western governments.