Freedom House Calls Belarus Election a Sham

Washington, DC, March 17, 2006 -- An intensified government crackdown of opposition voices in Belarus over the past two weeks strongly demonstrates that Sunday's presidential elections will not be genuine, Freedom House said today.

Belarus's upcoming presidential election has engendered an opposition movement stronger than any that has existed in recent years. Nonetheless, the government of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been quite successful in its recent attempts to silence opposition voices. An attack on presidential candidate Alexander Kazulin on March 2 was the first in a series of recent pre-election detentions and arrests of opposition leaders. Moreover, the head of state security in Belarus has promised that any protests following the elections will be crushed. He was quoted as saying, "The actions of those who take the risk of going into the streets to attempt to destabilize the situation will be viewed as terrorism."

In an effort to halt communication between Belarusian citizens and the international community, the government has arrested journalists and suspended the printing of independent newspapers. Election observers from the European Parliament were recently denied visas to the country.

"Freedom House commends those courageous men and women of Belarus who are striving to overcome President Lukashenka's efforts to suppress normal political discourse," said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. "We encourage the governments and citizens of the democratic countries to denounce what is sure to be a sham election."

Belarus is rated "Not Free" in Freedom House's annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World, and is counted among the world's most repressive regimes.

Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has monitored political rights and civil liberties in Belarus since 1991.

Additional information about Belarus is available online at:

Freedom in the World 2005: Belarus

Freedom of the Press 2005: Belarus

Nations in Transit 2005: Belarus

Source: Freedom House