As expected, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has won a fifth term in office with a reported 83.49 percent of the vote. The final result still has to be officially confirmed.
The head of Belarus' central electoral commission Lidiya Yermoshina announced Lukashenko's win in a televised news conference on Monday.
Lukashenko, a former collective farm director in the former Soviet republic, has ruled the country since 1994,consolidating an image of strength and stability
under his 21-year rule. His disputed win in the 2010 presidential vote prompted massive street riots, however.
Sunday's vote saw the highest ever turnout for a Belarussian vote, pulling in 86 percent of the electorate.
Thawing relations with the West
The election could now see an easing of relations between Belarus and the West. Prior to the vote, the European Union (EU) said it might lift sanctions against Lukashenko after he freed political prisoners, as long as the election was deemed acceptable and not blighted by harsh crackdowns.
Belarus' role in mediating Ukrainian, Russian and rebel forces this year - which resulted in February's Minsk peace agreement - has also been looked upon favorably by the West.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which monitored Belarus' election is to provide a report on Monday, after which the EU is expected to announce the lifting of sanctions.
Despite efforts to rebuild trust with the West, Lukashenko has also maintained close ties with Russia in recent years. Moscow offers discounted energy prices along with favorable trade policies.
The eastern European state, which was once described by former US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice as "Europe's last dictatorship," has also witnessedsevere conditions for dissenters
to the president's longstanding rule.
Dissident journalist Svetlana Alexievich, who won the 2015 Nobel Literature Prize, warned of Western rapprochement with Lukashenko's regime.
"Every four years, new European officials come to power and think they can solve the Lukashenko problem without knowing that he is a man who is untrustworthy," Alexievich said on Saturday at a press conference in Berlin.
ksb/jm (Reuters, AFP)