The President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, has condemned "in the strongest terms possible" the beating up of a candidate in the Belarusian elections last night, after a poll predicted four out of five voted for incumbent Alexander Lukashenko.
Vladimir Neklyaev was brutally beaten by unknown assailants dressed in black uniform. The 64 year-old poet and opposition leader was later taken to hospital unconscious with head injuries.
Police were seen using stun guns and grenades last night in the Belarusian capital, reports Interfax, to deter demonstrators. Thousands gathered around Independence Square where they were attacked by police and what appeared to be militia in black clothing, say witnesses. Youtube has video of men kicking protestors in the square.
"This cowardly attack on a defenceless presidential candidate is outrageous and shameful," Jerzy Buzek wrote in a statement and stressed that such incidents are unacceptable.
Belarus's state electoral council announced Monday morning that voter turnout was 90 percent. Initial voting returns show Lukashenko winning 79 percent of the vote share, meaning he will be elected as head of state without the need for a second ballot.
Buzek, a former prime minister of Poland, demanded that President Lukashenko immediately punish those responsible for the violence last night, adding that it "casts a shadow over the presidential election".
Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 and this will be his fourth term as president. Critics have questioned the democratic validity of successive elections under Lukashenko's authoritarian regime.
"The citizens of Belarus deserve a democratic country. I express my appreciation of those who fight by peaceful means to achieve this goal, such as Mr. Neklyaev," wrote Jerzy Buzek, who wished the politician a speedy recovery.
The EU has pegged an increase in aid to the ex-Soviet nation to improvements in democratic standards and human rights. (pg)