Referendum - November 1996
Lukashenka used a non-democratic referendum in November 1996 to amend the 1994 constitution to broaden his powers and illegally extend his term in office. He began to count his 5-year term in 1996, thereby adding 2 years to his first term in office. Based on the unrecognized 1996 constitution, Lukashenka announced that presidential elections were to be held in 2001. In 2004, he engineered a fraudulent referendum that removed term limits on the presidency. Independent exit polling of the referendum showed results far different from those officially announced.
Elections - October 2000
In October 2000, “parliamentary” elections occurred for the first time since the disputed referendum of 1996 that dissolved the unicameral parliament and created a bicameral system. According to the OSCE/ODIHR, these elections failed to meet international democratic standards. International monitors noted sweeping human rights violations and undemocratic practices throughout the election period, including massive vote-counting fraud. These irregularities led the OSCE/ODIHR to find that these elections failed to meet Belarus' OSCE commitments for democratic elections. The March 2003 local elections and October 2004 “parliamentary” elections also failed to meet international standards of freedom and fairness. OSCE/ODIHR observers declared that the “parliamentary” elections fell far short of international standards, citing abuses in the campaign period and the vote counting.
Elections - 19 December 2000
The populist, non-party affiliate, Alexander Lukashenko (a former collective farm manager) has been President since 1994, having started his third term following elections on 19 December 2010. According to official figures, President Lukashenko won the elections with 79.6% of the votes. The OSCE/ODIHR Observation Mission’s final report on these elections concluded that Belarus had a considerable way to go in meeting its OSCE commitments for democratic elections. The report highlighted: a lack of independence and impartiality of the election administration; an uneven playing field and a restrictive media environment; and a continuous lack of transparency at key stages of the electoral process.
Elections - 19 March 2006
OSCE/ODIHR observers reported that the March 19, 2006 presidential election failed to meet international standards, was characterized by a disregard for the basic rights of freedom of assembly, association, and expression, and included a highly problematic vote count. Authorities detained many opposition and civic activists during the campaign and used force against demonstrators protesting the fraudulent election.
Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko was inaugurated in a brief, highly orchestrated and sparsely attended ceremony in Minsk 08 April 2006. Lukashenko's inauguration reflected very much the state of tension and uncertainty surrounding Europe's last dictator these days. The empty streets, heavy security presence and Lukashenko,s relatively brief, orchestrated appearance did not impart a festive, celebratory atmosphere or the image of a healthy, exultant victor. Where were the 83 percent of the voters who cast their ballots for Lukashenko? Certainly not celebrating their hero in the streets of Minsk. Even state media gave rather short shrift to the event and did not dwell on Lukashenko himself. In fact the cameras showed more the audience than the leader. Lukashenko looked alone, isolated, shaken, lacking energy, defensive and uncertain.
Authorities arrested hundreds, possibly as many as 1,000, of opposition activists and protesters since the March 19 presidential election. The Vyasna human rights NGO reported that authorities arrested more than 200 people on March 21 and 22 in relation to the protest on October Square. Another 500 were arrested in the early morning on March 24 when security services raided the October Square protest and arrested all participants. Around 100 more were arrested on March 25 around the Milinkevich demonstration near October Square and during the interrupted march to the Okrestina detention center.
Former Belarus State University rector and presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kozulin was beaten and arrested during post-election protests. Belarus authorities arrested Kozulin a week after the March 19 vote in which authorities say President Alexander Lukashenko won a landslide victory. Kozulin was sentenced to five years in prison for "hooliganism, organizing and participated in gang activities and disturbing the public order." Many international organizations, the EU and the United States consider him a political prisoner and insist upon his release. Belarusian authorities do not agree, considering him a criminal. The Belarusian authorities released Kazulin on August 16, 2008.
Elections - September 2008
Belarus held “parliamentary” elections in late September 2008. Despite Belarusian authorities’ public assurances that the elections would be “unprecedentedly” democratic and transparent, the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission determined the elections fell short of OSCE standards. The authorities denied registration for approximately 20% of opposition candidates as well as candidates overall. While candidates were allotted their mandatory campaign airtime on various media outlets, restrictions on this access made it difficult for candidates to adequately present their platforms to the public.
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