Presidential election opens in Belarus

Voters in Belarus are heading to the polls in a presidential election that is expected to grant the incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko another term in office.

Lukashenko will compete with nine opposition candidates in the Sunday presidential election, the state-fund BBC reported.

The vote is widely expected to return the incumbent president, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state of ten million people since 1994, for another five year term.

The campaign for the Sunday election has been viewed as the most free since Lukashenko came to power in 1994. However, Western media reports claim that it has been tainted by vicious propaganda and reprisals against opposition candidates and their supporters.

Oleg Bebenin, an active member of the Belarusian opposition, was found hanged in his home outside the capital Minsk in September 4, 2010.

Bebenin, 36, founded Charter 97, a leading opposition website critical of President Lukashenko. His colleagues and supporters questioned the official confirming the cause of death as suicide.

At least two other opposition activists have reportedly been detained in the past two weeks.

Opposition leaders claim the election is undemocratic. They have called on Belarusians to come to the capital's main square after the polls close and denounce the vote as fraudulent. Lukashenko, however, has warned against the call to hold any protests.


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