The European Parliament said Thursday that Alexander Lukashenko should not be recognized as the president of Belarus when his term expires on November 5.
The authoritarian leader was elected to a sixth term in office August 9, a vote that Belarusian opposition parties, the United States and European Union allege was rigged.
The European Parliament rejected the results of the August election by a 574 to 37 margin, with 82 abstentions. The Parliament also called on the European Union to impose sanctions on Lukashenko.
“The EU needs a new approach toward Belarus, which includes the termination of any cooperation with Lukashenko’s regime,” said Lithuanian centrist legislator Petras Austrevicius.
The EU Parliament’s rejection of the August election is not legally binding, but it can affect how the EU supports Belarus financially.
Lukashenko’s August reelection sparked mass protests in Minsk and other Belarusian cities. More than 7,000 protesters have been arrested, and widespread evidence of abuse and torture have been reported. At least four people are reported to have died during the demonstrations, during which police aggressively dispersed peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, clubs and stun grenades.
Human Rights Watch accused Belarusian security forces earlier this week of detaining thousands of people and torturing hundreds of others in the days after the election.
Lukashenko denies the voting was fraudulent and blamed the unrest on meddling by Western countries. Russian news agencies quoted him last week saying he has nothing to discuss with the opposition, and that he would be open to constitutional reforms and possibly a new presidential election.
During his meeting Monday with Lukashenko in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a firm Lukashenko ally, endorsed the possibility of Belarus amending its constitution to lay the groundwork for new elections.