Russia Says Belarus Elections ‘Free and Fair’

Posted September 25th, 2012 at 11:20 am (UTC-5)
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Russia has praised Sunday's parliamentary elections in Belarus as being free and fair, despite strong Western criticism of the polls.

In a statement Tuesday, Russia's foreign ministry said Moscow is convinced that Belarusians were able to make “a conscious choice” for their candidates. It said Western criticism of the elections was politically motivated.

On Monday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the elections lacked neutrality, impartiality and proper counting procedures. It said prominent political figures who might have played a role in the elections remained in prison or were not eligible to register because of their criminal records.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the vote fell short of international standards for a free and fair election.

Parties backing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko dominated Sunday's vote. The opposition boycotted the election and urged voters to stay home.

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