US does not recognize Belarusian election results

Belarus, Minsk: A protester holds a flag during a march in the center of Minsk on December 19, 2010. (AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)
The US and European observers have criticized the results of the Belarusian election, while the CIS monitoring mission called them “free and democratic.”

­The US cannot recognize as legitimate the election results announced by the Belarusian Central Elections Commission, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement. According to the official results, Lukashenko won 79.7 per cent of votes during Sunday’s poll.

Washington endorsed the report prepared by the observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). According to the document, the election in Belarus was not free, fair or transparent. The OSCE said the election was “marred by the detention of most presidential candidates and hundreds of activists.”

The US administration also called for the immediate release of opposition politicians and activists detained during mass protests that took place in Minsk after the election. Gibbs criticized Belarusian police for dispersing the protesters.

However, another monitoring mission sent to Belarus by the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), said the election was legitimate. “We have no doubts about that,” CIS Executive Secretary Sergey Lebedev said, calling the voting “free and democratic.”   

According to CIS observers, the Belarusian poll “met national election laws and universal democratic norms.” They said shortcomings in the election process were not systemic and they cannot call the legitimacy of the results into question. Lebedev also stressed that the riots in Minsk and the detention of opposition activists had nothing to do with the election campaign.  

The OSCE said in a statement that the voting on election day could be assessed positively, but the process “deteriorated significantly during the vote count.” Lukashenko received almost 90 per cent of the coverage on state-controlled channels, the mission said. According to observer Tony Lloyd, the election “failed to give Belarus the new start it needed.”

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who secured his fourth term of office, described the OSCE’s assessment of the election as more “progressive” compared to assessments of former polls. The organization’s conclusion about this election “fails to reflect the state of affairs,” Lukashenko said. He added, however, that this “step forward” will help Minsk to build its relations with the European Union.

The Belarusian leader is hoping to improve relations with Russia and the US as well. But Washington reiterated its earlier statement that further development of relations will depend on Minsk’s respect for human rights and the democratic process.

President Dmitry Medvedev said the elections in Belarus should reflect “the sovereign will of the Belarusian people.” Whoever leads Belarus, it will remain a state that has close ties with Russia, he said. “That is why the development of the Belarusian state and democracy is very important to us,” the president stressed.