No opposition member elected in Belarus

Other News Materials 29 September 2008 10:54 (UTC +04:00)

No opposition member won a seat in Belarus parliamentary elections, the country's election commission said Monday, as protestors slammed the outcome as a "farce."

Commission head Lidia Yermoshina said the opposition still scared off voters, the official Belapan agency said.

"The fear of mass demonstrations and the disapproval of radical changes which could have happened if the opposition was elected, led to these results," Yermoshina said.

Opponents of the regime had previously complained of manipulation of the polls. Despite bans on rallies several hundred opposition members gathered in the city centre of Minsk to protest against the alleged fraud, holding up banners decrying the election as a farce, dpa reported.
According to the Russian Itar-Tass news agency, 100 of 110 districts were counted. Turnout was at 75.3 per cent to vote for the 263 candidates competing for the 110 seats in the Belarus parliament, 70 of them from the opposition.

Opposition candidates lagged behind the government's candidates by a wide margin, the commission said. Among the successful directly elected candidates were many representatives of large businesses and regional administration.

Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe are expected to give their verdict on the fairness of the polls on Monday afternoon.

Ahead of the elections, authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko stressed his interest in closer ties with the west, saying the polls would be fair and democratic.

"It will be very difficult for anyone to criticize this election as unfair," Lukashenko said after casting his vote in Minsk.

During the last eight years, no opposition member won a seat in parliament. Democratic elections are a prerequisite for improving relations with the west.