Belarusians Go To The Polls In Presidential Election

Belarus/Elections - Minsk residents looking at election campaign posters, Minsk, March 14, 2006

March 19, 2006 -- Belarus is holding a presidential election today.

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled the country for 12 years, is seeking a third term. He faces three challengers, two from the liberal camp, although analysts doubt the vote will be free or fair.

The main opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich urged some 6,000 supporters at a rock concert in Minsk last night to take to the streets after polls close to keep the count honest.

Lukashenka has vowed there will be no revolution in Belarus. The KGB security service has said any protesters who take to the streets could be charged with "terrorism."

Yesterday, the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said violence against peaceful protests "would meet with a strong international reaction."

During campaigning, dozens of opposition activists were fined or sentenced to short term jail terms. International observers and reporters have been denied entry or deported. Yesterday, three activists from Russia's liberal Yabloko party were detained in Gomel, a major Belarusian city.

(AP, Reuters)