Monday, March 20, 2006

Russian President Putin Intervenes To Prevent Sunday Minsk Bloodbath; Lukashenka Electoral Fraud Slips From 'Elegant' To 'Commanding'

MINSK, Belarus — "European observers said Monday that Belarus' presidential election did not meet international standards for a free and fair vote because of widespread detentions and intimidation.

Official results showed iron-fisted incumbent Alexander Lukashenko winning a third term by an overwhelming margin. Sunday's elections were overseen by monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe.

"The March 19 presidential election did not meet the required international standards for free and fair elections," said Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., who chairs the OSCE parliamentary assembly.

The mission said "arbitrary use of state power and widespread detentions showed a disregard for the basic rights of freedom of assembly, association and expression, and raise doubts regarding the authorities' willingness to tolerate political competition."

Central Election Commission chief Lidiya Yermoshina said Lukashenko, who has ruled since 1994, won a "commanding victory" with 82.6 percent of the vote, according to a complete preliminary ballot count. Main opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich received 6 percent, she said.

The European Union said the elections were marred by intimidation, and the 25-nation bloc likely will impose sanctions on Belarus' top political leaders.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said the opposition "was systematically intimidated" during the campaign." ...

Maria Danilova "Monitors say Belarus election failed to meet standards because of detentions, intimidation" Associated Press March 20, 2006


EUOBSERVER / MINSK – "There was no violence as feared in Minsk on Sunday night (19 March) when 15,000 to 20,000 people protested against president Alexander Lukashenko in October Square.

EU flags and armbands saying "Belarus in Europe" were on display among Belarusian and Ukrainian flags as demonstrators chanted "shame!" and "freedom!" at a giant TV screen showing over 80 percent support for Mr Lukashenko in state-sponsored exit polls.

The formal vote result is due Monday, with opposition candidate Alexander Millinkevich officially expected to gain just 3 percent of the vote despite independent estimates he has 30 percent support in the country. ...

"This is the birth of freedom and democracy," a young Ukrainian demonstrator shouted in the middle of a freak blizzard and minus seven degree temperatures in the Belarusian capital.

Russian president Vladimir Putin reportedly telephoned Mr Lukashenko over the weekend warning him to avoid bloodshed, Bratislava-based NGO Pontis [Foundation] reports." ...

Andrew Rettman "No violence in Belarus election protests" March 20, 2006.


United Democratic Opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich said that there were no elections on Sunday, only what he called "an unconstitutional seizure of power."

Milinkevich is urging opposition supporters to return to Minsk's central 'October Square' [across from the Presidental Complex] this evening [Monday, March 20], after more than 10,000 supporters rallied there on March 19. He said "the only way to talk to the authorities is from the streets." He and the other opposition democratic candidate, Alexander Kozulin, have called for new elections -- under a new Central Election Commission -- to be held by July 19, 2006.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Alexander Lukashenka indicated last week that he intends to continue to manipulate Presidential elections and rule Belarus with his "Adminstrative Toolbar" for the next 25 years until 100 tons of gold are held in reserve in the Belarus Central Bank.

Photo credit: Associated Press, March 20, 2006. With thanks.


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