International Observers Criticize Belarus Vote

Posted September 24th, 2012 at 6:25 pm (UTC-5)
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International observers are strongly criticizing Sunday's parliamentary elections in Belarus as not being competitive from the start.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation Monday said “a free election depends on people being free to speak, organize and run for office.” The observer mission said none of that happened during the Belarus campaign.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the vote fell short of international standards for a free and fair election. She said if Belarus wants improved relations with the United States, it must respect human rights, free political prisoners, and take steps to hold genuinely democratic elections.

Parties backing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko dominated Sunday's vote, which the opposition decries as a fraud.

The opposition and observers also say the reported 74 percent voter turnout figure was inflated.

The opposition boycotted the election and urged voters to stay home. President Lukashenko called the opposition “cowards” who have nothing to say to the people. The United States and the European Union have economic and travel sanctions on the Belarusian government for its sometimes violent crackdown on the opposition.

Washington has called Mr. Lukashenko “Europe's last dictator” for suppressing free speech and human rights, stifling the opposition, and rigging elections.