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Monday, 10 September, 2001, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Belarus vote 'neither free nor fair'
Vladimir Goncharik
Goncharik: "If it's rigged, the whole world will be told"
European election monitors have said the presidential election in Belarus - which returned President Alexander Lukashenko to office - "failed to meet international standards".

It was not democratic - I would not use the words free and fair

Senior OSCE official
According to official results, Mr Lukashenko won 75% of the vote, while his closest challenger, Vladimir Goncharik, won 15.4%.

Mr Goncharik demanded a re-run, accusing the authorities of vote-rigging, and appealed to foreign governments not to recognise the result.

However, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, congratulated his Belarusian counterpart on a "convincing victory".

Belarusian ballot-box
The losing candidate alleges fraud
The BBC correspondent in Minsk says Mr Lukashenko was widely expected to win, but the large majority stretches credibility.

The head of the monitoring mission sent by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Hrair Balian, said voting day itself was "fine" but severely criticised the pre-election environment.

"It was not democratic. I would not use the words free and fair," he told Reuters news agency.

Official results
Alexander Lukashenko: 75.6%
Vladimir Goncharik: 15.4%
Sergei Gaidukevich: 2.5%
Turnout: 83.9%
The monitors' report stresses the need to avoid isolating the republic, which it says would not be conducive to strengthening democratic development.

President Lukashenko has governed Belarus with a strong hand since 1994 and his persecution of political opponents and independent media have made him an outcast in the West.

But he has remained popular in Belarus with his populist style and efforts to preserve the Soviet-era social safety net.

Mr Lukashenko has called for unification between Russia and Belarus, and in a telephone conversation on Monday he and Mr Putin agreed to further strengthen the existing Russia-Belarus Union.

Fraud claim

Polls conducted before the vote put his rating in the region of 40% to 50%.

This is a glittering victory... It is elegant and beautiful

Alexander Lukashenko
Mr Goncharik, who says his campaign was constantly frustrated by the Belarusian authorities, told his supporters that Sunday's results were fabricated.

"Power is being handed to Lukashenko through fraud," he told a rally in Minsk.

"This regime cannot survive forever. It will have to answer for this fraud in front of the law and the nation."

Alexander Lukashenko
Lukashenko: "An elegant and beautiful win"
During the campaign, the OSCE accused the Belarusian authorities of mounting an unfounded public campaign against its observers.

The authorities had also barred hundreds of local independent observers from monitoring the election on the grounds that their documents were "not in order".

Reportedly about 5,000 local monitors were left to cover an electorate of 7.3 million, along with 300 international observers from the OSCE.

The OSCE also expressed concern about the high rate of voting allowed before election day and the possibility that Mr Lukashenko's supporters could have interfered with this process.

Mr Lukashenko has dismissed accusations of fraud as "unfounded".

"I don't know myself what's inside those urns," he remarked as he cast his vote on Sunday.

Afterwards he said that the OSCE ambassador in Minsk, Hans-Georg Wieck, was a spy who would be expelled if he did not leave the country of his own accord.

The BBC's Jacky Rowland
"The west would like to see the back of President Lukashenko "
London University's Jim Dingley
talks to The World Today
See also:

10 Sep 01 | Europe
Profile: Europe's last dictator?
11 Sep 01 | Media reports
Belarus opposition defiant in defeat
09 Sep 01 | Europe
How the media favours Lukashenko
30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Belarus
08 Sep 01 | Media reports
Belarus gays parade in election fever
22 Jun 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Belarus stuck in a timewarp
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