Belarus Parliament without Opposition

The preliminary results of the Belarusian parliamentary elections were announced yesterday. Contrary to expectations, no representatives of the opposition were elected to the body. Observers from the OSCE severely criticized the elections. The recent warming of relations between Minsk and the West now looks problematic, but Moscow should be happy with the new parliament, which it expects to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had released political prisoners and made a number of other concessions to the West. After the polls closed on Sunday, the opposition organized a march in downtown Minsk, carrying signs reading "Down with dictatorship," "No to Russian military bases," and so on. The police showed no interest in them and the action came to an end around midnight. OSCE representatives were in a high spirits.

A different mood prevailed yesterday morning, however. Chairman of the Belarusian Central Elections Commission Lidia Ermoshina released preliminary election results, according to which not a single one of the 56 opposition candidates made it into the parliament. According to Ermoshina, about 5.3 million people, more than 75 percent of the electorate had voted for supporters of the president. "No matter how much the Belarusian people love to criticize the authorities, the word 'opposition' alarms them even more," Ermoshina commented. "The undesirability of extreme change in their lives, certain worries that people connected with the opposition will come in and changes will take place that might disturb people's peaceful and comfortable existence, led to this result."

Opposition leaders held a joint press conference in the middle of the day. They told the press that, of the 70,000 places on district election commissions, the opposition occupied just 41 and there were ample irregularities in the vote. They also criticized the early voting system, which they say created opportunities for vote falsification. Observers were equally dismayed. "Voting was generally well conducted, but the process deteriorated considerably during the vote count," the OSCE statement read. "Promises to ensure transparency of the vote count were not implemented."



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