Lukashenko fears riots after calm parliamentary poll

(RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev)
The Belarusian president has warned that the nation could face public unrest after the parliamentary poll, in which the opposition suffered a crushing defeat.

In his first press comment after the Sunday parliamentary elections Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the dull poll was a joy for both the authorities and the people. The comment came after foreign watchdogs and analysts complained that the latest elections campaign in Belarus was too calm and its results were quite predictable. The Belarusian president parried by saying that this was the right way to hold an election in a civilized state.

“We need no revolutions, tremors, clashes, blasts or brawls,” local news agencies quoted Lukashenko as saying.

At the same time, the Belarus leader warned that the unrest was still possible. “As you understand, the main show in our country has always started after the elections. So everything might happen still, but of course I hope the God will spare us from this,” Lukashenko told reporters.

According to preliminary data released by the Belarus Central Elections Commission, the poll is considered valid in 109 of 110 constituencies in the country. Voter turnout is reported at about 74.2 per cent. Most of the newly-elected legislators are independent candidates with only four people representing political parties – three communists and one representative of the Lukashenko-friendly Agrarian party.

The head of the commission, Lydia Yermoshina has said that the result could be explained by very low competition.

Such a low level of competition is explained by the fact that several opposition parties and public movements have ignored the poll or withdrawn from it at a middle stage as a sign of protest against Lukashenko’s style of rule, which they label as authoritarian or even dictator-like.

After the poll took place the opposition immediately announced that they were not recognizing its results.

“Observers and opposition politicians are talking about mass violations during the preparations for the elections and the elections themselves. Information arrived from practically all large universities and industrial enterprises that people were forced to vote under threats,” writes the opposition website Charter 97. Additionally, they pointed to the very high rate of early voting which, in their view, is a sign of a rigged election.

Earlier in September, several opposition parties announced they would boycott the poll and withdrew their candidates from the elections lists.

Foreign politicians were also critical of the Belarus vote. Member of the European Parliament Marek Migalski said that the rules of the game during the poll had been set personally by President Lukashenko and changed too often, and the results of the elections were absolutely predictable and therefore the election campaign can be called a farce. Belarusian citizens had no full access to information and therefore their choice was not free and premeditated, the Polish politician added.

Migalski also said that the latest election “only broadened the gap that lies between Belarus and the European Union with its European democracy standards.” However, the parliamentarian announced that the European Union still intended to help the Belarus society regardless of the poll results.

In turn, the head of the CIS monitors’ mission Sergey Lebedev told the press that the high turnout and calmness of the community were both signs of the high state of maturity of the Belarusian civil society. He added that the CIS monitors clearly saw that the people connected their participation in elections with positive changes in life.

Lebedev also said that the preliminary report on the elections was that they were transparent and open and corresponded to generally-accepted democratic norms. The final report will be released after the authorities publish the final official report on the poll’s result.