September 24, 2012 / 11:20 AM / 7 years ago

OSCE says Belarus election not impartial or competitive

Members of the local electoral commission count ballots at a polling station after the parliamentary election in Minsk, September 23, 2012. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

MINSK (Reuters) - The Belarus parliamentary election dominated by candidates loyal to President Alexander Lukashenko was not a free, impartial election, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Monday.

“This election was not competitive from the start,” Matteo Mecacci, OSCE special coordinator, said in the statement. “A free election depends on people being free to speak, organise and run for office, and we didn’t see that in this campaign.”

Sunday’s election was boycotted by the main opposition and produced a parliament composed exclusively of independents or candidates loyal to Lukashenko, reinforcing his autocratic, 18-year rule.

A report of preliminary findings published by the OSCE, which fielded 330 observers of the election, said many prominent politicians who might have played an important role in the election “remained in prison or were not eligible to register because of their criminal record”.

Mecacci added: “We were here in 2010 when some of those people were first arrested and put in jail, and we are sad that their voices could not be heard this campaign.”

Observers had also not been given “meaningful opportunity” to observe the count and had come away with a negative evaluation of the counting process in a significant number of polling stations observed, the OSCE said.

Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by David Goodman

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