EU Says Lukashenko Not Only Worthy Presidential Candidate In Belarus

(RTTNews) - The European Union has said that it does not see Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as the only worthwhile candidate running in the upcoming presidential elections.

Talking to reporters in Belarus capital Minsk on Monday, European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule called for "free and fair elections in Belarus."

"We will respect the choice of the people" whatever be the outcome, he added.

The EU statement comes in the wake of claims by Lukashenko and his Lithuanian counterpart Dalia Grybauskaite last week.

Talking to a group of German journalists in Minsk on Friday, Lukashenko expressed confidence that a landslide victory is awaiting him in the presidential election, scheduled for December 19.

When concerns about a possible rigging of the election was brought to his attention, the 56-year-old leader said he would not have to steal the votes, as "the whole of the Opposition can only get about 1.5 per cent."

Grybauskaite reportedly said that Lukashenko was the only leader capable of safeguarding the independence of Belarus.

Irked by the authoritarian leader's poor human rights record, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on the former Soviet Republic.

EU sanctions against Belarus date back to 1999. In 2008, a travel ban on Lukashenko and several associates was suspended as an incentive for reform in the country.

Last year, thousands of anti-government activists held nationwide demonstrations in protest against the authoritarian rule of Lukashenko, dubbed by the United States as "Europe's last dictator."

Lukashenko, who fell out with the Kremlin, his traditional supporter, has been recently seeking increased economic ties with anti-American countries such as Venezuela and Iran.


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