In the city of Minsk and across Belarus polls have opened for the country’s parliamentary election. The two main opposition parties have boycotted the ballot.
President Alexander Lukashenko who has held power in the former Soviet country since 1994 was flanked by his son as he cast his vote. The election comes two years after Lukashenko won a landslide presidential election.
Opposition parties called on voters to shun the polls. They urged them to pick mushrooms or cook beetroot soup instead.
But four days of early voting by students, armed service staff and police have, according to official figures produced a 19 percent turnout. The boycott will not threaten the overall turnout threshold and the validity of the ballot.
While shrugging off the boycott threat authorities have seen a genuine lack of interest in the election one of the most low-key in Belarus since it became independent 20 years ago. Many voters believe the ballot will change nothing.
“I know everything has already been decided – who will get elected and who will get what votes. Those deputies who take part for the second time will get into parliament,” said pensioner Eduard Fedko.
Earlier this week three members of the opposition activist group, Tell the Truth were arrested and jailed for attempting to organise a rally. Their sentences will keep them in prison until voting ends.
Lukashenko the head of what’s been called ‘the last dictatorship in Europe’ has accused his opponents of being scared to let the electorate speak.