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US condemns ‘sham’ elections in Belarus, led by key Putin ally

President Alexander Lukashenko has been authoritarian leader of eastern European country for three decades

Dan Gooding
Monday 26 February 2024 23:20 GMT
Vladimir Putin pulls strange faces during meeting with close ally Aleksandr Lukashenko

The United States branded the parliamentary and local elections in Belarus as a “sham” after only candidates loyal to the country’s leader were permitted to run.

Preliminary results from the election further cemented President Alexander Lukashenko’s 30-year run as the authoritarian leader of the eastern European country.

Reacting to the election, US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Millar condemned the way the vote had been organised.

“The elections were held in a climate of fear under which no electoral processes could be called democratic,” Mr Miller said. “The regime continues to hold more than 1,400 political prisoners. All independent political figures have either been detained or exiled.”

Belonging to an opposition party is a crime in Belarus, with the four parties which took part all competing to show off their loyalty to Lukashenko instead.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko attend a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, in Saint Petersburg on January 29, 2024. (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The election was seen as a chance for the Ukraine border nation to beef up its alliance with Russia by showing any challengers had been defeated.

However, the Associated Press reported that a video message from the president’s main rival, who is in exile in Lithuania, was broadcast across advertising screens on Sunday.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told the AP that the vote was a “senseless farce”.

“Farce. Fraud. Military operation. There are many words to describe what is happening in Belarus. But don’t call it elections,” she said.

It was reported that those who refused to vote risked losing their jobs at state companies and institutions while spoiling the ballot was also not allowed.

“The United States recognizes the strength, resilience, and courage of Belarus’s civil society and democratic movement, which demand a voice in determining their country’s future,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller added.

“The United States again calls on the Lukashenko regime to end its crackdown, release all political prisoners, and open dialogue with its political opponents. The Belarusian people deserve better.”

Lukashenko has declared he will run for office again next year, after winning his sixth term in office in 2020 - a win which sparked mass protests across the country and saw some 35,000 people arrested.

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