Lukashenko victorious, opposition in disarray

Sunday's elections in Belarus brought outright re-election to President Alexander Lukashenko. He is entering his fourth term on the strength of a popular vote which electoral officials say gave him about 79 percent. The next biggest vote-winner is Mr 'Nay to All', with some 6 percent. All nine challengers of Mr Lukashenko are trailing even further behind.

The opposition reacted to the figures with what observers describe as an incoherent kneejerk. A crowd of its supporters noisily attacked the premises of the Belarusian government in central Minsk, only to be forcefully dispersed by riot squads.

International monitors of the elections praise the voting process for smoothness, but also voice criticisms. The head monitor from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Gerdt Arens, for instance, questions the fairness of ballot counting. Russian monitors agree, but advise all interested sides to wait until the entire picture becomes 100 percent clear.

Asked for a comment Monday, President Dmitry Medvedev said the Belarusian elections are a domestic affair of Belarus and any conclusions are premature until official final counts are unveiled.

The Russian post-Soviet affairs expert Dr Mikhail Alexandrov explains the nature of the protest in the Belarusian capital:

"While never expecting a Lukashenko defeat, many believed he would win in a run-off with the closest runner-up. An outright victory with almost 80 percent raised suspicions of rigging and stirred anger. "

Any evidence of rigging, however, is conspicuous by its absence. True, Lukashenko enjoyed the benefits of an uneven playing field, but the root cause of his electoral triumph should be sought elsewhere.

We hear about this from the Russian analyst Dr Yevgeni Minchenko:

"The main player into Lukashenko's hands was absolute impotence by the Belarusian opposition. It is this impotence that manifested itself in the sudden outburst of aggression and violence Sunday night Had the challengers been really strong, even an uneven playing field wouldn't have been an obstacle."

The West is now poised to reject Sunday's poll as illegitimate. Lukashenko will not budge. Unconditional support for him from the East, however, is problematic, after he managed to somewhat sour relations with the great eastern neighbour.

On the sunny side, President Medvedev hoped Monday the differences can be quickly bridged on the strength of the age-old shared heritage of Russia and Belarus.


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