Belarus polls show lack of respect for democracy: OSCE

Parliamentary polls in Belarus lacked respect for democracy and denied basic freedoms to voters and candidates, international vote observers said on Monday, after the opposition failed to win a single seat, news wires reported.

"These elections have demonstrated an overall lack of respect for democratic commitments," Margareta Cederfelt, leader of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's short-term observer mission, said in a statement. She warned that "parliamentary elections are in danger of becoming a formality" in the ex-Soviet country ruled since 1994 by strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The OSCE pointed to "significant shortcomings during vote counting" and said these led to "concerns about whether the results were counted and reported honestly."An election monitoring campaign organised by opposition parties also reported multiple violations on voting day, including officials inflating voter numbers.

The vote for the lower house of parliament on Sunday resulted in victory for parties loyal to the president. Two opposition MPs in the previous parliament were not allowed to stand.

The OSCE sent out 400 monitors on election day on Sunday and said in a statement released Monday that the observers found "fundamental freedoms were disregarded". Its strongly worded criticisms came after President Lukashenko told journalists he was "concerned" how the vote would be seen internationally, including by the EU, but added: "I'm not accustomed to fret about this."

Nevertheless Lukashenko, who is to contest presidential elections next year, has recently attempted to build ties with Europe, visiting an EU member, Austria, for the first time in three years.


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