A day after parliamentary elections wrapped up in Belarus, international election watchdogs have criticized the vote for its lack of competitiveness.
President Alexander Lukashenko's political bloc is expected to win nearly all of the 110 seats that were contested on Sunday in Belarus' parliamentary elections. Electoral commission officials on Monday listed 109 successful candidates, all of whom came from parties supportive of the political status quo.
But election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) say the election was not impartial.
"This election was not competitive from the start," Matteo Mecacci, OSCE special coordinator, said in a statement.
"A free election depends on people being free to speak, organize and run for office, and we didn't see that in this campaign."
A preliminary report by the OSCE, which fielded 330 election observers, said many strong potential candidates for the election "remained in prison or were not eligible to register because of their criminal record."
Key contenders in jail
"We were here in 2010 when some of those people were first arrested and put in jail, and we are sad that their voices could not be heard this campaign," said Mecacci, who added that observers had not been given any “meaningful opportunity” to inspect the vote-counting process.
Two major opposition groups had withdrawn all candidates and urged people to boycott the ballot. The head of the Belarus election commission, Lidya Yermoshina, reported an election turnout of nearly 75 percent, a figure the opposition says was falsified.
Western monitoring agencies have now not judged any election in Belarus to have been free and fair since 1995.
sej/tj (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)