Belarus Strongman Lukashenko Expected to Win Re-Election

Voters in Belarus are casting ballots to elect a president for the next five years.

Incumbent Alexander Lukashenko is running for a fourth term in Sunday's election, and is widely expected to win against nine opponents.

Advertising was limited and candidates were not allowed to spend more than $62,000 on their political campaigns.

Opposition leaders have accused state-controlled broadcasters of lining up behind the president, who has been in power since 1994.

Mr. Lukashenko has appointed over 99 percent of the 70,000 poll watchers, and on Friday warned international election observers they can be removed by force if they interfere with the process.

Authorities have warned against massive demonstrations.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarus kept close ties with Russia. But after a recent spat with Moscow, Mr. Lukashenko has courted the European Union and oil-rich Venezuela.

His supporters say the former Soviet collective farm manager is a wily nationalist. Opponents have called him "Europe's last dictator."

A referendum in 2004 abolished presidential term limits and two years later Mr. Lukashenko won re-election by a landslide. International observers declared the election undemocratic.


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