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28 Sep, 2008 19:00

Belarus votes on new parliament in ‘free and fair’ poll

Polls have closed in Belarus as the country held its parliamentary election. The turnout has been almost 75 per cent, according to government officials, which makes the election valid.

More than 900 international observers have been accredited to supervise the polls, including representatives from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The head of a delegation of European observers says the parliamentary election procedures currently underway in Belarus are ‘quite transparent’.

President Lukashenko is convinced that the international monitors will endorse the polls as “free and fair”.

He insists the elections will be conducted in strict accordance with international guidelines.

Almost a third of the registered candidates are members of Belarusian opposition parties. They're running for 110 parliamentary seats.

Opposition leaders, however, have called for protests, claiming the authorities will rig the results. They've managed to gather hundreds of protesters, who gathered in the centre of the capital Minsk to express their discontent at the way the election was held and the current regime.

In his interview with RT Social-Democratic party leader Alexander Kosulin expressed his concerns about possible ballot-rigging.

“Many people opted for early voting, so along with the general ballot boxes there are so-called closed ballot boxes. However, during the night, you may do with them whatever you want. This makes any kind of ballot-rigging possible, especially given the fact that we're talking about 50 per cent of the votes. And international observers will count the ballots in the boxes, but not the real votes,” said Kosulin.