Belarus opposition wins no seats in ‘rigged’ vote
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Following a parliamentary election widely criticised as being rigged in favour of President Alexander Lukashenko, Belarussian opposition groups denied official reports of a 74 percent turnout, saying most voters boycotted the polls.
Belarus said on Monday that no members of the opposition had made it into parliament in elections ridiculed by President Alexander Lukashenko's foes as brazenly rigged.
Participation in Sunday's ballot was reported at a massive 74.3 percent despite evidence of scant attendance at polling stations in the capital of the country often described as the last dictatorship in Europe.
The opposition said actual turnout was half that, charging that the official rate was inflated by a five-day pre-election process that allows state workers to take ballot boxes directly to voters across the ex-Soviet nation.
Monitors led by the OSCE European security and democracy watchdog were due to report their findings at 1100 GMT.
An analysis of the list of those elected to the 110-seat chamber showed that only four non-ruling party members had made it into parliament.
Three of them belong to the largely pro-government Community Party of Belarus while one is a member of the marginally opposition Agrarian Party.
All four had sworn allegiance to Lukashenko's policies during the election campaign, the Interfax news agency said in its analysis.
The Central Election Commission also said the opposition – suffering badly under Lukashenko since a 2010 vote ended in protests and mass arrests – appeared to have failed to win a single seat in parliament.
"The practice of lies has become the visiting card of the authorities," said opposition United Civil Party leader Anatoly Lebedko. "This is a complete discrediting of the electoral system in Belarus. It is a dead end."
Vitaly Rymashevsky, co-chairman of the Belarus Christian Democracy party, told AFP his party's observers believed only 38 percent of the electorate had voted after much of the opposition called for a boycott.
"The election commission is unscrupulously lying as these figures are so radically different from those of observers," said Rymashevsky.
Yury Gubarevich, deputy chairman of the For Freedom movement, said: "The authorities are counting on falsification but in these elections they have also come up against the apathy of society, the lack of a high turnout."
There were reports of violence after the polls closed.
Election commission head Lidya Yermoshina conceded that it was unlikely that the opposition had won any of the 109 seats decided on election day. One spot on the floor will remain unfilled on an interim basis.
"It is doubtful. None of the regions have sent in information about this," she said.
The outgoing chamber was also filled entirely by people who completely supported the man that Washington once branded as the last dictator of Europe.
'They should envy boring elections'
Facing economic sanctions and a travel ban from the West over rights abuses, Lukashenko's regime has moved even closer to its historic ally Russia, resisting calls for economic and electoral reforms.
Lukashenko, known to his admirers as "Batka" (Dad), cast his vote alongside his extra-marital young son Kolya, praising the "calmness" of the poll and telling journalists: "There is nothing to criticise so far".
"They should envy our boring elections. We don't need any revolutions or upheavals," said Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 18 years.
Nearly two years after unleashing a crackdown on demonstrators who dared question the scale of his election to a fourth term in December 2010, Lukashenko faced hardly any challenge from his scattered and weakened foes.
Several opposition groups called for a boycott of the poll, including United Civil Party and The Belarus People's Front, although others still supported certain candidates.
But the authorities still appeared to be taking no chances. About a dozen protesters have been arrested in the past week and thousands of flyers calling for a boycott were confiscated.
A dozen buses packed with riot police lurked on the side streets of central Minsk in case any protests should break out, an AFP correspondent said.
The outgoing parliament spent the term rubber-stamping legislation almost exclusively issued by the president's office, drafting and passing only four largely inconsequential bills of its own.