News / Europe

Western Observers Call Belarus Election a 'Failure'

Protesters rally as they denounce the Belarus presidential election saying it was falsified in the capital, Minsk, 19 Dec 2010
Protesters rally as they denounce the Belarus presidential election saying it was falsified in the capital, Minsk, 19 Dec 2010

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

Belarus's presidential candidate Grigory Kostusyev says he was held by secret police and pressured to renounce his colleagues before being released. He said candidate Dmitry Uss also had been released, after being among seven opposition candidates jailed following Sunday's election. European observers declared Belarus' election a failure.

European observers on Monday declared Belarus' presidential election a "failure." That assessment will likely to cause the European Union to withdraw its offer of nearly $4 billion in credits to President Lukashenko if he carried out a free and fair election.

European observers reported that vote counting was "bad" or "very bad" at almost half of polling stations they visited, according to Geert Ahrens, head of the election observer team of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE. "The election is a failure."

Watch Mariama Diallo's Companion TV Report

The main problem, the German diplomat said, was the secret counting of votes by Belarus government employees. Last year, the European Union had offered Belarus up to $4-billion in aid and credits last month, if the government here carried out elections deemed free and fair by the OSCE.

On Monday, Belarus Central Elections Commission Chairwoman Lidia Yermoshina disregarded domestic and foreign complaints about the secret vote count, and announced that Mr. Lukashenko had won 79.7 percent of the vote.

Yermoshina said that second place candidate Andrei Sannikov received only 2.6 percent of the vote. None of the eight other opposition candidates drew more than two percent of the vote, she said. About 6.4 million people, 91 percent of the electorate, reportedly turned out for the election. The government banned private companies from conducting exit polls.

The White House says Washington does not accept the results of the presidential election announced by the Belarussian Central Election Commission.

The number of votes Mr. Lukashenko received was slightly more than what he had predicted, but slightly less than the 83 percent of the vote he won in the 2006 elections. After that election, he said he actually had received more votes, but that he had reduced the number to make it look more democratic.

Already Europe's longest-serving president, Mr. Lukashenko's tenure in this former Soviet republic will run through 2015, which would make 21 years in office.

After learning that ballots would be be counted in secret, opposition leaders called a mass demonstration Sunday. Almost 1,000 people were jailed, including seven of the nine opposition presidential candidates.

At the press conference, Mr. Lukashenko criticized his opponents.

According to the opposition Committee for Free Elections, the presidential candidates are being held incommunicado in Minsk. On Monday, police raided the committee's offices, seizing its computers and detaining several of its members for two hours.

Germany, Poland, the European Union and the United States have condemned the arrests. The U.S. State Department called the actions "a clear step backwards on issues central to our relationship with Belarus."

Presidential candidate Vladimir Nikolyaev and several dozen supporters were attacked by men armed with stun grenades Sunday as they walked from their party's offices to the demonstration in Minsk. Mr. Nikolyaev was knocked out and taken to the hospital.

According to his wife Olga Nikolyaevna, government security agents entered the candidate's the hospital room and carried her husband away.

Nikolyaevna told an OSCE press conference, "I do not know where my husband is. Who took him by force, and where?"

Later Monday, President Lukashenko said her husband was in a secret police isolation cell.

Yaroslavl Romanchuk, one of the few opposition candidates who was not arrested, appeared on state television Monday, saying he opposed marching on the Central Election Commission.

Normally, a fluid speaker, Romanchuk appeared nervous and tired as he read a prepared statement.

State television has focused on the actions of about 50 protesters who attacked the government administration building Sunday.

State television largely has ignored Sunday's massive, overwhelmingly peaceful march through the center of Minsk by an estimated 40,000 people.

Belarus Interior Ministry Spokesman Anatoly Kuleshov told state television that 30 policemen were wounded Sunday. He did not mention the dozens of demonstrators and journalists who were clubbed by riot police.

The police spokesman said that participants in the attack on the state administration building could face up to 15 years in prison.


James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid