By Andrei Makhovsky in Minsk
ADVANCE voting opened overnight in Belarus's presidential election, a procedure the hard-pressed opposition said would make it easier for President Alexander Lukashenko to rig a poll the West views with deep suspicion.
Mr Lukashenko, accused in the West of crushing basic rights during his 12 years in power, is heavily favoured to win a new term in this weekend's race against three runners, two from the liberal and nationalist opposition.
Mr Lukashenko, who enjoys genuine popularity but has clamped down hard on opponents to prevent any pro-Western revolutions erupting, has vowed to win fairly.
Opponents say his score will be fraudulently inflated and the United States and European Union pledge to impose new sanctions on Belarus if international observers deem the poll unfair - a verdict expected even by Mr Lukashenko's ministers.