Belarus elections were a 'sham', US says, as results are announced

President Alexander Lukashenko
President Alexander Lukashenko Copyright AP/Belarusian Presidential Press Service
Copyright AP/Belarusian Presidential Press Service
By Euronews with agencies
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Belarus election commission says 73 per cent of the country's eligible voters took part in the polls, filling all 110 seats in the national parliament.

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Authorities in Belarus on Monday announced preliminary results from the one-day parliamentary and local elections held the day before but condemned by the United States as a “sham”.

Only candidates belonging to the four officially registered parties that are loyal to the country's authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, were allowed to compete in the polls.

Opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, in exile since challenging Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election, had called for a boycott of the vote which she said was a “senseless farce”.

The Central Election Commission announced that 73 per cent of the country's 6.9 million eligible voters cast ballots, filling all 110 seats in the national parliament and 12,514 seats in local councils.

The results have further cemented the 30-year iron rule of Lukashenko, who on Sunday declared his intention to seek yet another five-year term in next year’s presidential election.

Sunday's vote was the country’s first since the contentious 2020 polls that handed Lukashenko his sixth term in office and triggered an unprecedented wave of protests by opponents alleging mass vote-rigging.

More than 35,000 people were arrested, thousands were beaten in police custody, and hundreds of independent media outlets and non-governmental organisations were shut down and outlawed.

Lukashenko relied on subsidies and political support from his close ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, to survive the protests.

In February 2022, he allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory as a base to launch its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Putin on Monday congratulated Lukashenko on “the confident victory of patriotic forces of Belarus” that helped ”ensure internal political stability" in the country.

The election took place amid a relentless crackdown on dissent. Over 1,400 political prisoners remain behind bars, including leaders of opposition parties and renowned human rights advocate, Ales Bialiatski, who won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.

US State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, said Sunday’s polls were held "in a climate of fear under which no electoral processes could be called democratic”.

Belarus for the first time also refused to invite observers from top trans-Atlantic security and rights group, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to monitor the election.

OSCE monitors have been the only international observers at Belarusian elections for decades.

The European Council meanwhile announced on Monday it would prolong restrictive measures imposed against Belarus until 28 February 2025.

It said the decision was made in the light of continuing repression and the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, and its ongoing involvement in Russia’s illegal military aggression against Ukraine.

Since August 2020, the European Union has imposed several successive rounds of sanctions against individuals and entities it believes are responsible for internal repression and human rights abuses in Belarus.

The country also remains subject to targeted economic sanctions, including restrictions in the financial sector, trade, dual-use goods, technology and telecommunication, energy, transport, and others.

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With these measures, the European Union is signalling to the concerned political and economic actors that their actions and support for the regime and to Russia come at a cost.

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