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Lukashenko's election victory in Belarus confirmed

Officials in Belarus have confirmed that authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has won a fifth term in office by a huge majority. But international observers noted "significant problems" with vote counting.

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Lukashenko win in Belarus confirmed

The chairwoman of the Belarusian Central Election Commission, Lidia Yermoshina, said on Monday that Lukashenko won 83.6 of votes

in Sunday's ballot,

with his closest contender garnering less than 5 percent.

She said voter turnout was 86.75 percent.

Lukashenko's victory was considered a foregone conclusion. The leader of 21 years faced no serious competition after the opposition declared it would not participate following the official exclusion of its leaders. The three other candidates that did contest the election were largely unknown.

International scrutiny

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which sent a mission to monitor the vote, said on Monday that the elections had displayed some serious flaws.

"It is clear that Belarus still has a long way to go toward fulfiling its democratic commitments," said Kent Harstedt, head of the OSCE mission, in a statement.

The statement added that "some significant problems, particularly during the counting and tabulation of votes, undermined the integrity of the election."

Rapprochement hopes

An ex-collective farm director,

Lukashenko

has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994, maintaining close ties with Moscow.

But relations with the West have recently undergone a slight improvement after Belarus hosted talks on the Ukraine crisis, bringing together Ukrainian, Russian and rebel parties.

The talks culminated in the Minsk agreement laying down steps toward achieving a ceasefire in the conflict in southern Ukraine, which pits Russia-backed pro-Moscow rebels against the Kyiv government.

Amid the thaw, European Union foreign ministers are reportedly

considering a temporary lifting of sanctions

imposed on Belarus and Lukashenko in a bid to encourage him to move further toward the West.

tj/kms (AFP, AP)

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