Scandal dogs Belarus presidential polls

The current president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has been accused of fixing the vote to determine who will become the country's next president as the polls closed.

As the election polls closed, thousands of opposition supporters protested in the streets of the capital Minsk despite warnings from the police that people "trying to destabilise the situation" would be treated as terrorists and as such could face the death penalty.

Mr Lukashenko has been heavily criticised by Western governments and human rights organisations for his authoritarian rule in the ex-Soviet republic, the like of which has not been seen in Europe since the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

The president has complete control over the country's media and there is not a single opposition member in its parliament, which effectively acts as a "rubber stamp" to Mr Lukashenko's decisions.

Prior to the opening of the polls, supporters of the opposition candidates were reportedly detained and prevented from voting.

Government officials have accused foreign organisations and journalists of unfairly influencing the vote by supporting rival candidates, with many election monitors and journalists barred from viewing the voting procedures.

Early exit polls from polling stations loyal to the president give Mr Lukashenko an 80 per cent majority, with leading opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich picking up only three per cent of the vote.

Mr Milinkevich had earlier joined the 6,000 protestors in October Square, Minsk, with the crowds chanting "Long live Belarus," and waving European Union flags.

Despite scenes reminiscent of the overthrow of governments in the ex-Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia, Mr Milinkevich has repeatedly denied that he is calling for a revolution.

"I want to say again that I, as a presidential candidate, or representatives of my headquarters, have never called for a revolution. We are categorically against any revolutions," he said.

Mr Lukashenko is seeking his third consecutive term in office and has the backing of the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.