Opposition comes up empty handed in Belarus election

By bne IntelliNews September 24, 2012

bne -

There were no surprises in the Belarusian parliamentary election on Sunday, September 23, but thankfully there has been no violence either.

The final result is not in yet, but when journalists asked the head of the central election committee Lidiya Yermoshina at a press conference on Monday, September 24 whether any opposition candidates had been elected, she replied: "It seems doubtful to me."

Turnout was a strong 74.3%, reports the central election committee. The turnout number is important for the regime after the opposition called for a boycott of the race to win the 110 seats up for grabs

President Alexander Lukashenko sneered at opposition leaders, saying they were "cowards" for urging people not to vote. "They are cowards who have nothing to say to the people," he told journalists on Sunday after voting in Minsk, reported newswires.

The two main opposition parties - United Civic Party and the Belarusian People's Front - told people to take Sunday off and go fishing, or pick mushrooms rather than cast a ballot, arguing the only result of the poll would be to create a parliament to rubber-stamp directives by Lukashenko, who has run the former Soviet republic of 9.5m with an iron fist since 1994 and has stifled any opposition to his rule.

Belarus-watches are now waiting with baited breath for the final result, which could spark public protests. Following the announcement of the presidential election result in December 2010, there was widespread rioting as protestors tried to storm the parliament building.

A repeat of that unrest is regarded as highly unlikely, however, as the authorities immediately cracked down with riot police and stiff jail sentences followed. Tension below the surface in the small Baltic republic nevertheless remains high.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe sent 330 observers for the election and is expected to issue a statement later today, however the last time an election in Belarus was judged "free and fair" by international observers was in 1995.

Not that Lukashenko cares; when asked about the international condemnation of elections in Belarus, he replied: "We don't hold elections for the West. The main architect is the Belarussian people."

"If this time round there is doubt cast on the choice of the Belarusian people, then I don't know what standards will be good enough in future elections," Lukashenko, who was accompanied by his seven-year-old son Kolya, said, reports Reuters.

Except the people play little role in the process. Reports say that a number of Belarusian opposition websites have been blocked after they reported the results of the turnout for the elections have been falsified. Political opposition websites "Belarusian Christian Democracy," "For Fair Election," and "For Freedom" were blocked on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. local time, according to their administrators. "It was very interesting that websites were blocked only to Belarusian users, while people from abroad had access to them," Denis Sadovsky, a spokesman for the Belarusian Christian Democracy, told RIA Novosti.

At the previous parliamentary elections in 2008, voter turnout was 76.7%. All 110 deputies were elected in the first round. None of them belonged to the opposition.

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