Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is set to be voted in for his fourth consecutive term, exit polls suggest. Local media has reported that Lukashenko is likely to win a massive 72 per cent of the votes while his rival Andrei Sannikov is predicted to get 6.33 per cent. Opposition had already voiced allegations of election fraud by the ruling party in the country. Lukashenko is running against nine opposition candidates.
The poll, which began in the early hours of Sunday, witnessed participation from 65.2 per cent of the electorate. The Belarus Central Election Commission declared the elections as valid and maintained no violations were observed during the polls.
More than 900 international and 18,000 local observers were in place to monitor the elections.
The 56-year-old President has ruled the ex-Soviet republic, which serves as a buffer between Russia and the NATO, since 1994. The country is also a transit route for Russian gas exports to the rest of the Europe. Lukashenko won over 80 percent of the vote in previous polls held in 2006 and secured landslides in both the previous elections.
US officials have often dubbed him as Europe's 'last dictator'. Yet, Lukashenko managed to seek closer ties with the European Union, snubbing Russia's influence in the region. The leader angered Moscow after he blatantly refused to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the breakaway regions of Georgia, as independent states following Russia's war with Georgia in 2008. He also offered refuge to Kyrgyzstan's ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, against Kremlin's wishes.
Moscow, which was enraged by his policies, drastically cut gas supplies to the country over the past few months. However, officials in Minsk maintained that he had received blessing from the Kremlin in the run up to the polls.