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Belarus Parliamentary Vote To Be Held In September

Members of a local election committee emptied a ballot box after polls closed in Minsk in the country's last election, the December 19 presidential vote that sparked protests and a brutal crackdown.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has announced that Belarus will hold parliamentary elections on September 23.

Speaking at a parliament session in Minsk, Lukashenka, who has faced increasing international pressure since his disputed reelection in late 2010, warned that "no external interference will be accepted" by Belarusian authorities during the elections.

The veteran authoritarian ruler also pledged that international observers will be welcome to monitor the vote.

The upcoming elections will be the first in Belarus since the presidential election of 18 months ago was marred by a police crackdown against vote critics on election night and the arrest of hundreds of activists, then and subsequently.

That vote, which returned Lukashenka to office, was denounced by Western countries as a farce and affront to democracy and human rights.

Seven presidential candidates were among those detained in the debacle, which led to new rounds of U.S. and European Union sanctions targeting the Lukashenka regime.

Based on reporting by Interfax and BelTa