OSCE strongly criticizes Belarus parliamentary election campaign

Campaigning in a parliamentary election seen by the West as a test of Belarus's democratic credentials is giving voters an incomplete picture of the issues and candidates, Europe's top rights body said on Friday.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said there was little evidence of full-fledged campaigning and few opportunities for debate, with state media devoting most air time to praising the authorities. In a second interim report before the Sept. 28 parliamentary poll, the OSCE also said election officials had failed to provide assurances that observers could witness the vote count. "The campaign is being conducted in an extremely low-key manner throughout Belarus and few candidate meetings have taken place thus far," the OSCE report said. It said media coverage "has focused primarily on procedural aspects of the election process," giving voters little chance to become acquainted with candidates or issues. President Alexander Lukashenko, accused of crushing fundamental rights during 14 years in power, appealed to the West this week to recognize the election and work to improve relations and lift sanctions against the ex-Soviet state.



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