Belarus Reports High Turnout in Boycotted Parliamentary Vote

Posted September 24th, 2012 at 4:05 am (UTC-5)
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Election officials in Belarus are reporting high turnout in Sunday's parliamentary vote, which took place without the country's main opposition parties.

Officials said the turnout topped 74 percent – a figure the opposition and independent observers said was inflated by an early voting process that may have been a source of election fraud.

Matteo Mecacci, who heads an observer team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the early voting turnout was high. He called the system “peculiar.”

Opposition parties urged people to boycott the vote. President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for 18 years, responded by calling the opposition “cowards” who have nothing to say to the people.

The government violently cracked down on a pro-democracy march in Minsk after the 2010 presidential election, which Mr. Lukashenko won in a landslide. A number of opposition candidates were detained.

The United States has called Mr. Lukashenko Europe's last dictator for suppressing free speech and human rights, stifling the opposition and rigging elections.

The United States and the European Union have imposed economic and travel sanctions on the Belarusian government for its crackdown on opposition groups.