Lukashenko challengers register for Belarus election

Eighteen candidates have registered to run against long-time Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko for election in December, officials say.

Mr Lukashenko is running for the top post for the fourth time, and is the favourite to win, having stifled any serious political opposition.

The 18 other names on the list are largely unknown.

The Central Election Commission has until 30 September to verify the applications.

After that the candidates will have to gather 100,000 signatures in order to take part in the 19 December vote.

All the candidates are males. The only woman to be mentioned as a potential challenger, Natalya Starikova, a nurse, has changed her mind, citing media attention.

Mr Lukashenko, who has been the president of Belarus since 1994, has often been called "the last dictator in Europe".

In 2004 a referendum was held which eliminated presidential term limits and allowed him to stand for the presidency again and again.

He won the last election, in 2006, by a landslide, but it was widely condemned by international observers.

The opposition remains fragmented. Two former candidates at the last presidential election - Alexander Milinkevich and Alexander Kozulin - said they would not run. Mr Milinkevich has called the election "a farce".


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