UPDATE: Belarus Elections Fall Short Of W Standards - OSCE

(Updates with quotes, background.)

MINSK, Belarus (AFP)--Belarussian parliamentary polls fell short of Western standards, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Monday after results showed the opposition failed to win a single seat.

The "parliamentary elections in Belarus fell short of OSCE commitments in spite of minor improvements," the OSCE, Europe's elections watchdog, said in a statement.

Full results of Sunday's legislative elections indicated that all 110 seats in the lower house went to loyalists of President Alexander Lukashenko.

"Voting was generally well conducted, but the process deteriorated considerably during the vote count," said the OSCE.

The elections were expected to determine whether Lukashenko's authoritarian 14-year-old regime would warm to the West or move deeper into Russia's orbit.

The organization, which deployed some 450 poll monitors in the former Soviet state, said they were denied access to more than a third of polling stations for the count and found "several cases of deliberate falsification of results" at other locations.

"This compromised the transparency of this fundamental element of the election process."

Earlier, the Belarus Central Elections Commission chief Lidia Yermoshina said the conduct of the vote was "in accordance with the law," but opposition leader Anatoly Lebedko described the results as "unfair and illegitimate."

In the lead-up to the polls, Lukashenko made an apparent bid to thaw relations with the U.S. and European Union, which offered Belarus benefits if the polls showed democratic progress.

However, OSCE officials expressed disappointment that Belarus failed to improve its democratic credentials.

"Unfortunately the repeated signals of good will did not seem to have been correctly given or received," the statement quoted Anne-Marie Lizin, special coordinator of the OSCE's mission to Belarus, as saying.

"Consequently the significant progress we hoped for in the democratic development of Belarus did not materialize," Lizin said.



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