International observers yesterday condemned a weekend vote in Belarus in which not a single opposition politician won a parliament seat. The election looks set to deepen the former Soviet nation's diplomatic isolation.
Critics also said the 74.3 per cent turnout reported yesterday by the country's Central Elections Commission chairman was way too high and indicated widespread fraud.
The main opposition parties, which were ignored by state-run media, boycotted the election to protest the detention of political prisoners and the ample opportunities for election fraud.
The vote filled parliament with representatives of the three parties that have backed the policies of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.
"This election was not competitive from the start," said Matteo Mecacci, leader of the observer mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. "A free election depends on people being free to speak, organise and run for office, and we didn't see that in this campaign."
Belarus' parliament has long been considered a rubber-stamp body for Lukashenko's policies. He has ruled Belarus since 1994 and Western observers have criticised all recent elections there as undemocratic.
Local independent observers estimated the overall turnout as being almost 19 per cent lower than the official 74.3 per cent figure.
Full Caption: Antonio Milososki, the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission in Minsk, right, speaks, as Matteo Mecacci, the special coordinator to lead the short-term OSCE observer mission and Head of the OSCE PA delegation (left) looks on during a news conference in Minsk, Belarus, yesterday. “This election was not competitive from the start,” said Matteo Mecacci. “A free election depends on people being free to speak, organise and run for office, and we didn’t see that in this campaign.” The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the election failed to live up to international standards.