EU concerned at Belarus vote after opposition wiped out


BRUSSELS - The EU's French presidency on Tuesday voiced concern at the legislative elections in Belarus after the OSCE judged the vote, in which no opposition candidate was elected, to be non-democratic.

The findings of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election watchdog "concern" the EU presidency "which calls on the Belarusian authorities to pursue efforts in order to conform with international democratic standards," an EU statement said.

The EU presidency, held by France till the end of the year, also urged Belarus to "cooperate fully" with the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

However the statement also spoke of "positive developments which preceded the vote, in particular the freeing of the remaining political prisoners and the invitation to the OSCE to observe the legislative elections".

The French EU presidency also reaffirmed the European Union's objective of "reinforcing democracy in Belarus".

Loyalists of autocratic Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko won every seat in Sunday's parliamentary polls that were also widely condemned by the US government and Western observers.

Full results of Sunday's legislative elections indicated all 110 lower house seats in the former Soviet state would go to allies of Lukashenko, dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the United States.

The OSCE said the vote "fell short of OSCE commitments in spite of minor improvements."

However the director of the OSCE mission in Belarus, Anne-Marie Lizin, said the door "should remain open" to Belarus in this "crucial time" for relations between the former Soviet state and the European Union.



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