Belarus Opposition Calls For Rally On Election Day

MINSK (AFP)--The opposition in Belarus Sunday called for a rally in the capital Minsk on parliamentary elections day to protest "electoral fraud," the joint opposition forces' press service said.

The political council of democratic forces, which includes leaders of six major opposition parties and several non-governmental groups, "called on voters to join the rally protesting electoral fraud" on September 28, the press service said.

The rally is due to be held next Sunday at 8:00 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) on the October Square, where thousands of demonstrators gathered to protest against the results of the March 2006 presidential vote, setting up a tent town.

The political council also urged the international community "to recognize that the elections were neither free nor democratic and that a new parliament would not be legitimate," the press service said.

Nine of the 78 opposition candidates have already withdrawn from the race, citing the inability to print leaflets and the electoral commissions' refusal to allow opposition members to monitor the vote.

The leader of the United Civilian Party, Anatoly Lebedko, said he would not withdraw his candidacy and that his party would try to "obtain access to ballot counting."

However, he insisted that "all democratic candidates must sign a declaration announcing that the elections and the new parliament are illegitimate."

"Even if a United Civilian Party candidate finds himself in parliament he must not recognize either the vote or the parliament as legitimate," Lebedko said.

There are only 46 opposition members among some 70,000 officials in the country's 6,485 electoral commissions, the leader of Belarus's Popular Front, Lyavon Barshchevsky, told AFP.

"There is massive fraud in the making, and I will be on the square too," he said.



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