International Observers Criticize Belarus Vote

Posted September 24th, 2012 at 10:20 am (UTC-5)
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International observers are strongly criticizing Belarus' recent parliamentary election as “not [being] competitive from the start,” saying its administrators lacked impartiality.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had sent more than 300 observers to Belarus to observe the vote. In a statement Monday, it said “a free election depends on people being free to speak, organize and run for office” and that it did not see that in this campaign.

However, the OSCE said it stands ready to work with Belarus to take steps forward.

Parties supporting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko dominated the vote. Main opposition parties had boycotted it to protest what they said was election fraud, along with the detention of political prisoners.

Opposition members and independent observers also have said the reported voter turnout of more than 74 percent was inflated by an early voting process that may have been a source of fraud.

President Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for 18 years, responded to the boycott 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. Authorities detained several opposition candidates.

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

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