Polls pass off peacefully in Belarus, but opposition fears fixing

Minsk/Moscow - Parliamentary elections in Belarus were passing off peacefully Sunday. By midday, one-third of the country's 7 million eligible voters had cast their ballots, Elections Supervisor Lidiya Yermoshina was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying from the capital Minsk.

The opposition has expressed fears that the polls would be fixed by the Belarusian leadership.

Former presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin said he doubted that any opposition candidates would make it into the parliament.

"A few supposed opposition politicians will be successful, which will be sold to the European community as a great achievement, but they will only be candidates who suit the powers that be," Kozulin said as he cast his vote.

Kozulin was released from prison only a few weeks before the election on pressure from the European Union.

He had been sentenced to five and a half years in prison for organizing an event without official approval.

Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko had said ahead of the polls that they would be fair and democratic.

A total of 450 Western election observers had been invited to monitor the polls.

The first meaningful results were not expected before Monday.

There are 263 candidates for the 110 seats in the parliament. Seventy of the candidates belong to the opposition.

Opponents of the regime had previously complained of manipulation of the polls.

In the last parliamentary election, no opponents of Lukashenko won a seat.



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