Belarusians vote amid call for boycott; Lukashenko says will seek reelection next year

This is the first election held in Belarus since 2020

Belarus elections Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko | Belarusian Presidential Press Service via AP

Amid tight security, Belarusians took part in the voting that held on Saturday. The local elections are set to pave way for the authoritarian leader President Alexander Lukashenko to rule the nation, while the opposition called the polls a "senseless farce".

Lukashenko had ruled Belarus for nearly 30 years. Not quite in favour of the West, he accuses it of trying to use the vote to undermine his government and destablise the nation.

The majority of the candidates belong to the four officially registered parties: Belaya Rus, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Party of Labor and Justice, supporting Lukashenko.

After casting his vote in the parliamentary and local elections. Lukashenko said that he will run for the presidential election again in 2025. "Tell them (the exiled opposition) that I'll run...No one, no responsible president would abandon his people who followed him into battle...We're still a year away from the presidential election. A lot of things can change," he was quoted by Belarusian state news agency BelTA.

While opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urged the voters to boycott the elections. Tsikhanouskaya is in exile, presently in Lithuania, after challenging Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election.

She has called the whole election exercise a "farce" and alleged that only those that the regime favours are allowed to contest.

Meanwhile, this is the first election held in Belarus since 2020. Lukashenko rose to power enjoying sixth term in office. The results paved way for mass demonstrations in the nation as well.

More than 35,000 people were arrested and hundreds were taken into police custody. Even media and nongovernmental organisations were shut as well.

Belarus, which enjoys the political support of Russia, has relied on subsidies to survive the protests. Lukashenkoallowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

However, the opposition has alleged that the balloting that began on Tuesday was manipulated with the ballot boxes unprotected for five days. While, the officials said over 40% of the country's voters cast ballots during the five days of early voting.

Reportedly, soldiers, teachers and students were forced to participate in the early voting.

Speaking on Tuesday, Lukashenko said that the West were trying to seize the nation's power by force. He directed the police to beef up security across Belarus.

After the vote, Belarus is set to form a new state body the 1,200-seat All-Belarus Popular Assembly that will include top officials, local legislators, union members, pro-government activists and others, reported The Associated Press. The body will have the power to appoint election officials and judges as well.

Belarus for the first time also refused to invite observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the election. OSCE has been observing the Belarus elections for decades.

Since 1995, not a single election in Belarus has been recognized as free and fair by the OSCE.

According to OSCE, the decision deprived the country of a "comprehensive assessment by an international body".


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