News / Europe

Belarus Strongman Lukashenko Expected to Win Re-Election

Incumbent Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko with his son, Nikolai, at a polling station in the capital, Minsk, 19 Dec 2010
Incumbent Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko with his son, Nikolai, at a polling station in the capital, Minsk, 19 Dec 2010
James Brooke

Belarusians voted Sunday in a presidential election that seems destined to add another five years to President Lukashenko's 16-year rule.

Wearing fur hats and bulky overcoats, voters turned out to vote in one of Belarus' shortest and coldest days of the year.  

Opposition claims fraud

Even before the polls opened, a monitoring group supported by opposition parties said the government had committed fraud by tampering with ballots cast during five days of early voting.

Sergey Kalyakin chairs the monitoring group "For Fair Elections in 2010.”
He said that his group received numerous reports that voting station directors did not seal voting boxes and protect them from tampering by government officials.

Over 99 percent of poll-watchers were appointed by the government. About 1,000 foreign election observers were registered in Belarus.

About 10 percent of votes were cast early, according to the election commission.

Pre-election polls indicated that there could be enough support for the nine opposition candidates to deny President Lukashenko a first round victory of 50  percent, plus one vote.

Different views on Lukashenko

Opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov told VOA after voting Sunday that a lot of Belarusians – he would say the overwhelming majority -- wants change."

But Galina Sergeyevna, a teacher of management, who voted at the same poling station as Sannikov, say that she likes Mr. Lukashenko's gradual approach to change and that she appreciates the peace and quiet of her nation.

Ivan, a 24-year-old shop assistant, said he, too, supports Lukashenko, but would like to see a faster integration of Belarus, a country of 9.6 million wedged between Poland and Russia, with Europe and the US.

Old ways deeply ingrained

Urbana Mikhailovna, another teacher, agrees with those who say Belarus needs change, but sees it hard to come by as the government, as she said, controls the entire electoral machinery here.

Stanislav Shushkevich, who led Belarus for two years after it broke away from a collapsing Soviet Union in 1991, shared this pessimism about change in an interview with VOA on Saturday. He said that the current government operates by “old methods,” adding that this mean a complete falsification if the electoral process.

Lukashenko’s rise and style

In 1994, Shushkevich held what are widely seen as Belarus' first free presidential elections. Lukashenko won that election and subsequently amended the constitution to extend his term in office. In 2006, he won re-election in a vote that was deemed undemocratic.

On Sunday, Lukashenko vehemently denied fraud charges during a 17-minute press conference aired at midday on national television.

Speaking after voting in a sports school, the burly leader said any question of fraud would be decided by the state election commission. Asked why he was appearing on television after campaigning officially ended on Saturday, he said that the nation would like to see what their president was doing.

Asked if he will talk with the opposition after the election, he replied that he would not talk to what he called "bandits and diversionaries.”

He added that he would talk with normal opposition figures, those who shared his goal of a "peaceful, beautiful, quiet Belarus."

Status quo likely to remain

Not everyone voted Sunday. Mila, an English teacher, said that voting does not change anything.

"There won't be any impact. Everything will be exactly the same."

Asking that her last name not be used, she hurried home past October Square, the site of the planned opposition protest.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs