Belarus walks a tightrope as elections near

The President of the former Soviet state Belarus insists this weekend's elections will be fair and democratic, despite growing scepticism. Advance voting has begun, and the Minsk hardman, President Alexander Lukashenko, who recently fell out of favour in Moscow, must balance the demands of the Kremlin with the promises of Europe.

"We are not simply conducting these elections by our own constitutional laws," said Lukashenko. "We are actually breaking a whole series of our laws to conduct these elections in a way that is acceptable by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Western observers."

Belarus is seen, in the West at least, as a hangover from Soviet days, with little prospect of change. The Minsk press dutifully outlines the arguments, but increasingly the voters are increasingly unimpressed. Lukashenko was slapped down by Moscow last month for his lukewarm response to Russia's short war in Georgia.



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