BELARUS
20th March 2006

1. President Alexander re-elected in farcical presidential vote

Belarus' president, Alexander Lukashenko, has been re-elected with the results, according to the Lukashenko-loyal Central Election Commission, announced as follows:

1. Alexander Lukashenko 82.6%

2. Alexander Milinkievich 6%

3. Alexander Kozulin 2.3%

This surpasses the level of "elegant victory" which the Central Election Commission had predicted for Lukashenko, of 75%. It represents an increase on his bloc's share of the vote in the last parliamentary elections of 2004 and the last presidential election of 2001.

Independent exit polls put the results as:

Lukashenko 47%, Milinkievich 30%, Kazulin 10% - which would have necessitated a second run-off round between Lukashenko and Milinkievich, during which the vast majority of Kazulin's votes would have gone to Milinkievich. It cannot be understated how much an achievement this would have been for the opposition given the complete media blackout and climate of intimidation of their activists under which they have had to operate.

The official exit polls, run by the state-owned Natiional Academy of Sciences, pinpointed the eventual "result" accurately.

2. Freedom House labels Belarus election a sham

An intensified government crackdown of opposition voices in Belarus over the past two weeks strongly demonstrates that Sunday's presidential elections will not be genuine, Freedom House said on Friday

http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=342

3. OSCE: Belarus ballot "severely flawed"

European election monitors have said the re-election of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was flawed and failed to meet international standards.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4824642.stm

The BBC have, as they do with most things, made several basic omissions and errors of understanding in their report. Firstly, "Lukashenko has popular support" - they fail to link this with the media monopoly and complete absence of opposition voices on the media. Secondly. "Lukashenko is credited with stability and a growing economy" - it fails to mention that the economy is only growing because of Putin's propping up of the regime with the supply of Russian oil at about a fifth of market price, and that, in any case, Belarus' GDP per capita and economic performance compared to neighbouring countries Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia is shameful. Thirdly, "an independent mission from the CIS stated that the elections were free and transparent." - failing to mention that the CIS is dominated by Russia, which has a vested interest as it is, as highlighted, propping up Lukashenko's regime. Furthermore, there are actually only 3 democracies in the CIS - Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan - all of which have had revolutions from which Moscow distanced itself. Moscow continues to back the other undemocratic regimes in the CIS, 2 of which, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, are officially labelled as among the premier league of the worst of the world's most repressive dictatorships.

4. Televisio coverage glorifies Lukasheno's re-election

This is my eyewitness take on the TV coverage of the election campaign here in Minsk. Last night's TV featured an at-length interview with Lukashenko about his re-election prospects, a small piece depicting the opposition as drug-addicted youths and terrorists, and this morning a further long press conference with Lukasheno to which were invited only loyal journalists, pressing him to imprison Milinkievich and Kazulin.

5. Minsk in lockdown mode on election day

Yesterday all internet connections to the centre of Minsk were disabled, and all routes into the city blocked. Classes at universities had been cancelled on Friday and Monday, allowing students to go home to the regions at the weekend, as most had in any case been forced to take part in advance voting for Lukashenko.

6. Peaceful protests in Minsk on election day

Around 30,000 people gathered in October Square Sunday night to protest election falsifications. The authorities used no force, but local sources predict this may change on Monday evening when most foreign observers are thought to have left.