Belarus Election Unacceptable

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko won re-election, according to the official poll results. But U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States "cannot accept as legitimate the elections results."

According to observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the vote "failed to meet O-S-C-E commitments for democratic elections." The election in Belarus was characterized by "a disregard for the basic rights of freedom of assembly, association, and expression," as well by a "climate of intimidation and insecurity" and "highly problematic" vote count.

Since the election on March 19th, thousands of demonstrators have gathered in the streets of the Belarusian capital, Minsk, to call for a new vote. One of them is pensioner Pavel Rusetsky. "I came here," he said, "to support these young people. In previous years, I was marching under the red flags and I think it was wrong. That's why I am here. I want my grandchildren to be proud of me," said Mr. Rusetsky. A young Belarusian taxi driver brought tea and blankets to the demonstrators. "Lukashenko has re-elected himself as always," he said. "These are courageous people and I want to help them."

It is critical that Belarusian authorities not harm, threaten, detain or prosecute those exercising their legitimate political rights. The government of Belarus should release immediately those detained or jailed during the campaign. The U.S. and the European Union are preparing to take action against the Belarusian officials responsible for the election fraud and other human rights abuses.

The United States continues to stand with the pro-democracy forces in Belarus, said State Department spokesman McCormack:

"We support [the opposition's] call for a new election. We will stand with the people of Belarus and back their aspirations to take their rightful place among the world's democracies."

The people of Belarus deserve nothing less.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.