In Belarus Election, President’s Supporters Win Every Seat in Parliament

New York Times

24 September 2012

By Andrew Kramer

Supporters of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko won every seat in Parliament in an election over the weekend that, as many in post-Soviet authoritarian states, was widely seen as rigged, if perhaps a little less so than before.

The chairman of the Central Election Commission said the turnout was 74 percent, despite calls for a boycott by two opposition parties. Other opposition figures were allowed to run in the election with fewer bureaucratic hindrances, which was viewed as an improvement over past parliamentary elections, but none of them won a seat.

"This election was not competitive," said Matteo Mecacci, an Italian lawmaker and the head of an international observer mission in Belarus, in a statement released by the mission. "A free election depends on people being free to speak, organize and run for office, and we didn't see that."

The group's report noted the easing of rules for registering candidates, something Belarussian officials are believed to have enacted last year in the hope that the European Union would ease a visa ban on Mr. Lukashenko and 100 or so other senior officials. Foreign ministers of the union's members will meet next month to weigh whether the changes merit a loosening of the visa ban and other sanctions.

Belarus's political system closely resembles those in other former Soviet states with authoritarian governments that stage rigged elections. In February, for example, the president of Turkmenistan won election with 97 percent support against seven candidates, all of them members of his own political party.

In Belarus, the last three opposition figures lost their seats in Parliament in 2004.

Alaksiej Janukievic, chairman of the Belarussian Popular Front, one of the two parties that boycotted the latest election, said that if Mr. Lukashenko wanted to win an easing of the European sanctions, the logical path would be to allow one or two opposition figures into the 110-seat Parliament. But letting even one critic in "would challenge the whole ideological line of the government," Mr. Janukievic said. "There is a president, and the people who support him, and there is a fifth column. If even one opposition member entered Parliament, it would show the opposition is not a public enemy, as the public supported at least one of them."



Nat Parry

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