Belarus holds communal elections, first under new voting low

Minsk - Voters began going to the polls in communal elections in Belarus on Sunday in the first voting under new election laws adopted under pressure from the European Union.

Results were expected on Monday from the voting, in which opponents of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko alleged that the changes to the election laws were "merely cosmetic."

Some seven million eligible voters were being called to choose 20,000 city and local council seats. But only two per cent of the candidates were from opposition parties.

Ahead of the voting, the government opponents charged that their candidates were being massively hindered in a bid by Lukashenko to further tighten his grip on power.

Chief opposition leader Alexander Milinkevitch charged that authorities were putting extreme pressure on voters. He said many people had lost their jobs after they had gathered signatures for opposition parties.

The voting comes about a year before the next presidential elections, in which Lukashenko is expected to run for a new term of office.


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