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2019.11.18 10:31

Belarus election: No seats for opposition as Lukashenko maintains power

Deutsche Welle2019.11.18 10:31

Official results announced on Monday show that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko maintained his hold on power after not a single opposition candidate was elected to the Belarusian parliament.

Two opposition candidates were elected in 2016 for the first time in 20 years, but this time around Lukashenko banned them from standing.

The Belarusian leader insisted that votes in his country are fair and that voters could simply turf him out if they wish to at the next presidential election in 2020, when he plans to stand again.

"I have promised that I would not hang on to this seat until my fingers turn blue. Trust me, it's not really the softest chair," he told reporters.

Critics have denounced the election as fraudulent rife with violations and the parliament has been described as being such in name only. Officials allegedly inflated voter numbers and threw out observers.

All 110 Members of Parliament elected represent parties loyal to the president. The turnout was 77 percent, according to official data.

Lukashenko has sought to build better relations with the United States and European Union in recent years as he seeks to balance ties with neighbouring Russia.

In September, the United States and Belarus announced they would exchange ambassadors after an 11-year freeze. Washington also signaled it would scale back remaining sanctions depending on how the parliamentary elections and a presidential vote in 2020 are conducted.

While the United States and the European Union in 2016 eased most sanctions imposed on Belarus due to human rights concerns and restrictions on political freedoms, Russia has increased pressure on Lukashenko to deepen ties between Minsk and Moscow.

Russia and Belarus formed a nominal "union" in 1996 and maintain close economic and military cooperation, but they continue to have disputes over energy prices and import duties.

Adding to tensions, Belarus refused to recognise the Russian annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Moscow has also cut subsidies that have helped prop up Belarus' state-run economy.

Earlier media reports indicate that Belarus and Russia are moving towards a tax-union with Russia in 2020, and an even closer integration.

In response, Lithuania and Poland is looking at options to provide alternative energy supplies to Belarus in an attempt to break Moscow's grip on Minsk.

Read more: Lithuania wants a long border with Belarus, not Russia – President Nausėda says

Reuters and AFP contributed to the reporting