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OSCE, US Disappointed by Belarus Election

By VOA News

30 September 2008

The United States has joined Europe in criticizing Sunday's parliamentary elections in Belarus, noting particularly the country's failure to keep promises for a transparent vote count.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday that international monitors encountered obstacles during the voting process, and that there were discrepancies between the number of voters observed and the number of votes counted, as well as outright falsification of votes.

Europe's largest security organization says the parliamentary elections in Belarus fell short of democratic standards, despite what it called "minor improvements" in election procedures.

Monday's report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe came shortly after Belarusian authorities said opposition candidates failed to win a single seat in the 110-member parliament.

The OSCE said in its report Monday that its monitors were hindered from monitoring 35 percent of vote tabulations. The report said vote counting was found to be "bad or very bad" in 48 percent of polling stations visited.

Opposition leaders claim the vote was rigged, and are calling on the West not to recognize the results.

The United States and the European Union had voiced a willingness to consider lifting trade and travel sanctions imposed on Belarus, if OSCE monitors certified the polls met international standards for transparency and fairness.

Washington and Brussels had voiced optimism in recent days over prospects for a thaw in diplomatic relations with Minsk, after Belarusian authorities freed former opposition presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin.

Kozulin was sentenced to more than five years behind bars in 2006 for openly protesting President Lukashenko's re-election in what Kozulin and much of the West denounced as a rigged vote.



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