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29.09.2008

No to electoral farce!

   

Protest actions against the rigging of the results of the “parliamentary election” were held in Minsk on Sunday. The Belarusian opposition called the elections a farce and urged the international community not to recognise the new “house of representatives” as legitimate.  Demonstrators demanded new free elections.

The demonstration began on October Square of Minsk at 8.00 pm after polling stations closed. Human rights activists had already reported numerous infringements of electoral law during the election campaign, advance voting and on voting day. Many candidates weren’t registered, there were no equal opportunities for campaigning and people were made to vote early. There were also arrests around the country of people circulating independent information, and also cases of ballot boxes being opened and ballot papers stuffed into them at polling stations. There was an extremely low number of representatives of the opposition parties in polling station election commissions, only 47 people out of 69.865 (0.07 per cent).

Charter 97 are adamant that the figures for the turnout are grossly inflated, and say that estimates from independent observers of the turnout in Minsk and other cities differed from the figures, “drawn up” by election commissions’ members.

October Square, where the protest rally began, was not cordoned off by the police as it usually is, however there were a lot of riot police officers in civilian clothing on the square, and vans with riot and spetsnaz (Special Forces] units waiting nearby. The presence of a large number of international observers and foreign journalists probably acted to restrain the authorities.

There were around 2,000 people at the rally, with many well-known opposition figures, including former political prisoner Alexander Kazulin who was only recently released.  The demonstrators demanded new, free and fair elections.

The demonstrators then marched along Independence Avenue to the building of the Central Election Commission. Apparently people joined the procession.  At the CEC the leader of the Youth Front Zmitser Dashkevich read a prayer for free and independent Belarus, with the participants joining in. .

From material at www.charter99.org

 

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