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Results Show Lukashenka Victorious, And Thousands Protest

March 20, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The Belarus Central Election Commission says nearly complete preliminary results show incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka winning reelection to a third term, with 82.6 percent of yesterday's vote.

The CEC said the main opposition candidate, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, received 6 percent. Behind him came two other candidates: pro-government lawmaker Syarhey Haydukevich, with 2.8 percent, and opposition figure Alyaksandr Kazulin, with 1.5 percent.
Electoral authorities said the voter turnout in the poll was 92.6 percent.

Lukashenka has ruled Belarus for 12 years, and this victory will keep him in office until 2011.

Thousands Rally To Protest Results

Hours before the official results were announced, with preliminary reports indicating an overwhelming lead for the incumbent, Milinkevich dismissed the results as fraudulent.

Shortly after polls closed, over 20,000 demonstrators gathered in Minsk's October Square to protest alleged election fraud, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported.

Milinkevich and another opposition candidate, Alyaksandr Kazulin, came to the square to address the crowds. Milinkevich declared the poll a farce and called for a new, honest election.

"We have won and it does not matter what they announce, they will announce a ridiculous percentage [for Lukashenka]. We have won because people believe they can stand up for freedom, truth, justice, and their own dignity," he said. "The authorities were threatening [people], saying there were terrorists with plans, but despite this, people have come out. This is a victory over fear."

Reporting from October Square, RFE/RL correspondent Alexander Lukashuk said it was the largest rally in Minsk in years. "[There are] an incredible number of people, an incredible number of young people," Lukashuk reported. "There are very young and beautiful faces here. And of course there are a lot of white-red-and-white flags, yellow-and-blue [Ukrainian] flags, European Union flags and flags of the Zubr movement."

Around midnight, Milinkevich asked his supporters to disperse and go home, but called on them and other Belarusians to return to October Square for another protest tomorrow.

(with agency material)

Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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