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10/20/04 - FLAWED ELECTIONS IN BELARUS  - 2004-10-22

Both the constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections in Belarus were seriously flawed. Observers say the election was marred by government harassment of opponents, allegations of ballot-stuffing, and one-sided media coverage. Nearly half of the opposition candidates were either denied registration or disqualified on administrative technicalities. It does not appear that any opposition candidate won a parliamentary seat.

Many Belarusian voters were afraid to give their full names when asked to comment on the elections. One voter, who called himself Leonid, said, President Aleksandr Lukashenko "will never give up power voluntarily. We see the situation today as the birth of Stalinism."

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the entire electoral process in Belarus was flawed:

"International observers have noted a number of serious violations by the government in the campaign period, potentially biasing the election even before the votes were cast. Electoral misconduct continued throughout the voting and vote tabulation process. We’re aware that exit poll results present a far different picture of the voters’ preferences than the results that have been announced by the Belarus government."

Adding insult to injury, Belarusian officials claim that seventy-seven percent of voters approved a proposal to allow the autocratic President Lukashenko to seek unlimited terms in office. Like the parliamentary elections, the referendum on Lukashenko is widely believed to have been rigged by the Belarus government.

Clearly, the will of the Belarusian people has been thwarted yet again. Another flawed referendum and parliamentary elections mean that Belarus will remain politically and economically isolated from the rest of Europe and the U.S.