Belarus is voting Sunday in presidential elections, with incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, largely expected to secure a fourth term in office.
International monitors, however, report the latest elections in the former Soviet republic so far have been much freer than in the past. The authorities have allowed activists to collect signatures during the election campaign, perform protest songs and read anti-government poetry.
Security forces warn they still will crush any attempts to stir tension during or after the voting over opposition threats to hold protests against what they say will be a manipulated vote. The opposition further claims the freedom in the election campaign was just window-dressing.
Nine challengers are competing with Lukashenko for the presidency.
For the first time in Belarus modern history, State television aired a debate among the contenders opposing the president, but Luskashenko, who has governed since 1994, did not take part.