Berlin summons Minsk envoy over observer visas | News | DW | 20.09.2012
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Berlin summons Minsk envoy over observer visas

Germany has summoned the Belarusian ambassador to Berlin after Belarus authorities denied entry visas to election observers ahead of Sunday's parliamentary poll.

People walk past pictures of candidates for the parliamentary election in Minsk September 17, 2012. Belarus's two main opposition parties said they would boycott a parliamentary election next Sunday, denouncing it as a fake exercise and are calling on people to go fishing or visit your parents instead. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko (BELARUS - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Minsk Wahlkampf

Berlin's Foreign Ministry summoned the Belarusian ambassador on Thursday after the two observers, one of them German, were denied visas.

Germany's special representative for Eastern Europe, Antje Leendertse, had made clear to Belarusian ambassador Andrei Giro "that the federal government has no understanding at all of electoral observers... and journalists being refused visas," a German foreign ministry statement said.

"Constraints on press freedom, entry denials and hindrances to civil society are already a potential negative sign in the run-up to the election and a further setback to social development," a spokeswoman for the ministry said.

Critics claim the vote on Sunday will be little more than a rubber-stamping exercise for a parliament supportive of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

On Wednesday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe named the two banned observers as Marieluise Beck from Germany and Emanuelis Zingeris from Lithuania.

Following a crackdown on dissent after a controversial 2010 presidential election, which gave Lukashenko an unprecedented fourth term, the European Union responded with economic sanctions.

Travel bans were also issued against almost 250 people in the Belarusian government and judicial system. Human rights groups and the US government have called the country “Europe's last dictatorship.”

rc / ipj (AFP, AP)