Presidential election starts in Belarus

MINSK, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- Belarusians went to the polls on Sunday in the fourth presidential election since the country gained independence in 1991.

Some 6,000 polling stations across the country opened at 08:00 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) and will close at 08:00 p.m. local time (1800 GMT).

Ten candidates, including incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, will run in the polls. Lukashenko was widely expected to secure a fourth term.

Some 7.09 million voters have been registered for the election, which will be monitored by around 1,000 international observers.

According to Belarusian election laws, the candidate who has won more than 50 percent of the votes shall claim victory. A second round of polls will be held within two weeks if no candidate passes the 50-percent threshold in the first round. Those two candidates who garner the highest votes in the first round will enter the runoff, during which the one who gathers over 50 percent of votes will become the president.

The president has a five-year term and can seek unlimited reelection.

An early voting was held on Dec. 14-18, allowing those who can not vote on the election day to cast their ballot in advance.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) said on Sunday that the turnout of the five-day early voting was 23.1 percent, or 1.62 million people.

CEC head Lidia Yermoshina told a press conference that during the first two hours of the polls, no significant incidents have been reported.

She also said observers were divided over the conducting of the presidential election.

Some observers said violations occurred during the organization of the polls, while others claimed the voting good and harmonious.


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