Belarussian Pres calls on voters to sign up for opposition candidates

MINSK, October 7 (Itar-Tass) - President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has urged the Belarussian voters to support his opponents so that they could get registered as candidates for presidential election, the presidential press service said Thursday.

He issued the appeal in the course of a meeting with Alexander Radkov, the Belarussian Education Ministry who is currently seeking nomination as a candidate.

"Let's turn to the people and ask them to sign up to alternative candidates' /nomination/ lists," Lukashenko said. "There are sixteen people there, and let them go and take part /in the presidential race/."

"That's not voting for a president, that's the handing out of tickets for further participation in the election race and if they don't get the /necessary number of/ signatures no one will register them then," he said.

Lukashenko indicated that more than enough signatures -- "over 600,000" -- have been gathered for his own registration as candidate, and "that's why it might make sense for the spearhead group to stop gathering more signatures."

"The only thing I'm concerned by is the concoctions of some kind that we allegedly forced some people to gather the signatures," he said. "We might have hurt someone's feeling in the course of the campaign and that's something we mustn't do under any circumstances."

"Actually, as I can see we've gathered more than half a million signatures to date, and so what kind of pressure could there be," Lukashenko said.

In the meantime, a number of oppositionist aspirants to presidency have voiced the complaints that their representatives are not allowed to enter student dormitories and hostels where they could gather signatures. They also claim there are instances of pressure on spearhead group members involved in the signup effort and threats can be heard that they will lose their jobs.

According to reports from Belarussian human rights activists, local authorities have sent out instructions to industrial facility managements, directorates of state organizations and school headteachers on how many signatures in Lukashenko's support should be ensured.

Spearhead groups began gathering signatures for the nomination of candidates for presidency as of September 30. Taking part in the race at this stage are seventeen people but the national electoral law stipulates that only the ones who rally the support of more than 100,000 voters will be registered as candidates.

The chairperson of Belarus's Central Electoral Commission, Lydia Yermoshina believes not more than four or five candidates will remain in the presidential race closer to the finish line.


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