Belarus elections fail to meet democratic standards - OSCE

MINSK, September 29 (RIA Novosti) - The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Monday that Sunday's parliamentary elections in Belarus failed to fully meet OSCE standards, although there were some slight improvements.

The organization's international observers said in a preliminary statement that the election "ultimately fell short of OSCE commitments for democratic elections" but saw "minor improvements."

"The clear signals to improve the election process were not implemented," Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Anne-Marie Lizin told journalists in Minsk. "Consequently the significant progress we hoped for in the democratic development of Belarus did not materialize."

Although the voting which gave all 110 seats in the lower house of parliament to pro-government candidates was "generally well conducted," the process got worse during the vote count, the OSCE statement said.

"Promises to ensure transparency of the vote count were not implemented. The count was assessed as bad or very bad in 48% of polling stations visited," the observers concluded in the statement.

Voting took place on Sunday across Belarus in elections that came after President Alexander Lukashenko, once called "Europe's last dictator" by the United States, had freed opponents from jail and permitted some 70 opposition candidates to stand in the polls.

However, no member of the opposition has made it into parliament. Hundreds of opposition supporters protested late Sunday in Minsk's central Oktyabrskaya Square against the elections, which they said were a farce.

Lukashenko earlier said he expected to improve relations with the European Union and the United States, which have not recognized any election or referendum held in Belarus since 1996. After casting his vote on Sunday, he said that he hoped that if the polls went without a hitch, "the West will recognize Belarus."

Meanwhile, the head of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission, Ambassador Geert Ahrens said: "We hope that the improved co-operation we have experienced during this election can be the basis for a genuine dialogue on implementing our recommendations."



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