Joseph Muscat in socialists' campaign for democratic Belarus

European Socialist MEPs, including Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat, have vowed their support for the democratic campaign in the parliamentary elections in Belarus in September.

Leaders of three social-democrat parties from Belarus delivered a common invitation for members of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament to come to Minsk and campaign for the democratic opposition.

Martin Schulz, head of the PSE delegations said: "Travel to Belarus remains difficult, but we will push the authorities to allow us to rally on the spot. If these are to be fair elections, it is not more than normal; that we can support our sister parties".

In comments to, Labour leader Joseph Muscat, who is on the European Parliament delegation to Belarus, said: "Labour is committed in favour of democratisation. We will continue to assist our Belorussian friends in their strive in favour of democracy."

Socialist Group Vice-President, Jan Marinus Wiersma, happily accepted the invitation to Belarus and added that if the authorities would allow members of the European Parliament to play a role in the election campaign, it would be a signal the country is sincerely interested stronger relations with the European Union.

The delegation from Belarus did not believe the elections would be genuinely democratic. "Lukashenka is going to try and trick you again and pretend the poll is free and fair", said Volha Kazulina, daughter of Mr Kazulin, during the roundtable with members of the European Parliament.

According to Mr Shushkevich, leader of one of the Social Democratic parties and first President of post-Soviet independent Belarus, officials are already preparing falsification of the elections. Mihalay Statkevich, leader of the European Coalition in Belarus, called the elections 'ritual'.

Despite their downbeat analysis, all three leaders were resolved to use the campaign period to get their message to the people of Belarus:" There is an alternative for authoritarianism, a choice for freedom and a European future".

Jan Marinus Wiersma, vice-president of the EP Socialist Group, strongly supported this line, calling on the parties not to boycott the elections, which is still under discussion in the democratic opposition.

"Lukashenka can only steal the votes, if people cast them first. If he does that once too often, people will get fed up and start calling for change. That is the bottom up process we need," said Wiersma.