Feature: Belarusians brave cold weather to vote for future

Against a frigid temperature of 10 degrees Celsius below zero, Belarusians on Sunday went to the polls for the fourth presidential election since the country gained independence in 1991. Many of them said they have cast a ballot for the future of their motherland.

By 6 p.m. local time (1600 GMT), 84.1 percent of Belarusians, or 5.967 million people, had cast their votes in the election, said the Central Election Commission (CEC).

At around midday, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko brought his youngest son to the No.1 polling station. He even asked the boy to cast the ballot for him.

After voting, Lukashenko expressed to reporters full confidence in the results of the election.

"Only Belarusians can decide the results of the election," he said.

Before casting his ballot, Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky told reporters that he voted for the future stability and development of Belarus.

"The country is making a choice today, the choice for stability, development and the life we have been working for over 15 years," he said.

At No. 78 polling station, an 82-year-old retired worker named Lutsky told Xinhua that he hoped Belarus to retain social stability and continue to improve people's livelihood.

"Hopefully retired people like me can afford to buy cheaper medicine and food," he said, who weathered through hard times during wartime and the period of post-war reconstruction.

"Compared with other ex-Soviet republics, Belarus has been stable. It is happiness for us to live here," said the old man in full confidence of Belarus' future.

At No. 45 polling station, a female teacher named Gavrilova said that even though she was not interested in politics, it was her obligation to cast her ballot.

Concerned about her family and the future of her two kids, she said it was a must for her to take part in the polls.

Also, Gavrilova said there were too many candidates in this election.

"I cannot tell clearly which candidate is who, and many of their manifestos are not concrete enough," she said.

However, she believed the Belarusian leadership can manage to maintain economic growth of the country while ensuring people's social security.

"I hope they could pay more attention to child care and provide more assistance to families with children," she added.

Lukashenko was widely expected to secure a fourth term by defeating other nine candidates. According to the ECOOM analytical center, Lukashenko garnered 79.1 percent of votes. Another exit poll conducted by the TNS-Ukraine company said he got 72.2 percent of ballots.

Some 7.09 million voters were registered for the election, which were monitored by around 1,000 international observers. Many observers have given positive remarks concerning the election.

An independent observer from Russia named Binetsky said he had visited 15 polling stations during the polls, each of which was in a positive atmosphere.

"Belarusians are active in voting. Obviously they would like to vote for their country's future," he said.

According to the observing mission head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Gert Arens, OSCE might give a better evaluation on the Belarus presidential election compared with previous ones.

If no problems occur during the vote counting, OSCE will regard this election as "a major step forward," he said.

Sergei Lebedev, director of the observing mission of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), said no serious violations were reported during the rather calm polls.


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