Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Opposition boycotts Belarus poll

An election commission official sets up ballot boxes at a polling station in Minsk, Belarus (AP)

Belarus is holding parliamentary elections without the main opposition parties, which boycotted the vote because of complaints over the detention of political prisoners and opportunities for election fraud.

The election must fill 110 seats in parliament, which long has been reduced to a rubber stamp by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Mr Lukashenko's landslide win in 2010 triggered a massive protest that authorities brutally suppressed, and any rallies after the parliamentary vote would be certain to draw a similar harsh response.

Mr Lukashenko has ruled the ex-Soviet nation of 10 million people with an iron fist since 1994. Western observers have criticised all recent elections in Belarus as undemocratic.

The US and EU have imposed economic and travel sanctions on Mr Lukashenko's government over its crackdown on opposition groups and independent media.

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