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Belarus elects new parliament amid opposition boycott

President Alexander Lukashenko's ruling party is likely to sweep the board in Sunday's parliamentary elections in Belarus, not least as two of the main opposition groups have boycotted the polls, calling them a sham.

Polls closed in Belarus on Sunday, with voters invited to elect 110 people to the country's legislature.

The last such vote, in 2008, led to a landslide victory for the candidates loyal to President Alexander Lukashenko, officially classified as independents, who raked in all but seven of the available seats. The remainder went to the Communist and Agrarian parties, neither of which is considered a genuine opposition group. Sunday's ballot is unlikely to yield a different result.

Soldiers cast their ballots during early voting for Belarus' parliamentary election in Minsk September 19, 2012.(Reuters)

Public servants have been encouraged to cast their votes early

Two of the main opposition parties had urged voters to boycott the elections, publishing promotional videos encouraging people to take their families to the park or to go fishing instead. This campaign, however, appears to have failed at driving down the turnout to invalidate the vote.

Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus since 1994; he won re-election by a landslide in 2010 presidential elections, getting just under 80 percent of the vote. Public protests after that ballot were suppressed by police, sometimes violently, and several opposition figureheads have either been jailed or gone to ground since.

Watch video 01:40

Voter turnout low in Belarus election

Belarus is subject to a string of sanctions from the EU and the US, including a travel ban against Lukashenko and high-ranking government officials. The former Soviet state retains relatively cosy ties with neighboring Russia; the countries have an open border and a common air defense network.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called the 2010 vote in Belarus "flawed," and it has not given any election in the country a clean bill of health since 1995.

msh/jr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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