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No Opposition Members Elected in Belarus, Officials Say

No opposition member won a seat in Belarus parliamentary elections, the country's election commission said as protestors slammed the outcome as a "farce."

Opposition activists protest against the parliamentary elections shortly after polling closed, in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008

Opposition activists protested the election after the polls closed Sunday

Commission head Lidia Yermoshina said the opposition still scared off voters, the official Belapan agency said Monday, Sept. 29.

"The fear of mass demonstrations and the disapproval of radical changes which could have happened if the opposition was elected, led to these results," Yermoshina said.

Opponents of the regime had previously complained of manipulation of the polls. Despite bans on rallies several hundred opposition members gathered in the city center of Minsk to protest against the alleged fraud, holding up banners decrying the election as a farce.

According to the Russian Itar-Tass news agency, 100 of 110 districts were counted. Turnout was at 75.3 percent to vote for the 263 candidates competing for the 110 seats in the Belarus parliament, 70 of them from the opposition.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko

Lukashenko defended the election

Opposition candidates lagged behind the government's candidates by a wide margin, the commission said. Among the successful directly elected candidates were many representatives of large businesses and regional administration.

Lukashenko defends vote

Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are expected to give their verdict on the fairness of the polls on Monday afternoon.

Ahead of the elections, authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko stressed his interest in closer ties with the West, saying the polls would be fair and democratic.

"It will be very difficult for anyone to criticize this election as unfair," Lukashenko said after casting his vote in Minsk.

During the last eight years, no opposition member won a seat in parliament. Democratic elections are a prerequisite for improving relations with the West.

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