Tuesday, September 02, 2014
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Opposition shut out in Belarus election

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Official results in Belarus' parliamentary election have delivered an overwhelming victory to parties allied with President Alexandr Lukashenko, meeting predictions by opposition groups who boycotted the vote and claimed it would again be rigged for the president. 

Central Elections Commission Chairwoman Lidiya Yermoshina said on Monday that 74.3 per cent of eligible voters had turned out and downplayed more sceptical assessments by independent election observers, saying that only official turnout tallies would be considered. 

There were no runoffs, and Yermoshina said that all but one of the 110 seats in parliament had been assigned. 

Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull, reporting from Minsk, said the election represented "no challenge whatsoever to power, no challenge to the status quo" and guaranteed another four years for a legislature long considered a rubber stamp for Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet nation since 1994.

"If this time anyone has doubts about the choices of the Belorusian people ... then I don't know how I should run the elections," the president said in televised remarks.

Every poll since Lukeshenko's rise has been criticised as undemocratic by Western observers.

"We saw in some places there were some people. But, you know, the turnout in this country is based also on what happens during the early voting day, and the turnout was quite high for the early voting, around 26 per cent is the official tally," said Matteo Mecacci, the head of the observer mission for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which fielded 330 monitors. "So, I think that is a peculiar system."

Lukashenko's landslide win in a 2010 presidential election triggered a mass street protest that was brutally suppressed, and any rallies after the parliamentary vote would be certain to draw a similar harsh response.

Longtime opposition figure and politician Stanislav Shushkevich said there were "no democratic-minded people" on the country's election comission and called the vote "a joke".

The opposition had hoped to use this election to build support, but 33 out of 35 candidates from the United Civil Party were barred from television, while the state-owned press refused to publish their election programmes.

About 40 candidates from communist and leftist groups critical of Lukashenko still ran, but they weren't expected to make it into the parliament, which has been fully occupied by government loyalists since the last three opposition members lost their seats in 2004.

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