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Belarus' Alexander Lukashenko re-elected to fourth term

RIA Novosti

06:56 20/12/2010

MINSK, December 20 (RIA Novosti) - Incumbent Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko won a landslide victory in Sunday's presidential election amid accusations of vote rigging and mass arrests in the country's capital.

With 100% of the ballots counted, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said citing preliminary results: Lukashenko gained 79.67%, winning a fourth term; his closest rival, opposition candidate Andrei Sannikov, received 2.56% of the votes.

The remaining eight runners had 0.48% to 1.97%, while 6.47% voted against all candidates. CEC head Lidiya Yermoshina said the voter turnout was 90.66%.

The vote count was delayed due to protests over what the opposition called vote rigging. Thousands of protestors tried to storm the government building, breaking windows and seizing batons from police, but were eventually dispersed. The demonstrators and police accused each other of provoking clashes that saw a few people on both sides injured.

Over 100 people were arrested. The protest leaders face charges of organizing mass riots.

Opposition candidate Vladimir Nekliaev, beaten by police during a protest rally following the vote, was taken to a police station right from his bed in hospital where he received treatment for head injury, his wife Olga told RIA Novosti.

The opposition said another presidential candidate, Nikolai Statkevich, was beaten by law enforcers too. It also reported that four presidential candidates, namely Statkevich, Sannikov, Grigory Kostusev and Vitaly Rymashevsky, were detained following the unauthorized protests.

Several journalists were arrested; an AP reporter and two Russia Today operators were beaten during the crackdown on the rally participants.

Lukashenko, dubbed by the United States "Europe's last dictator" for a clampdown on opposition and dissent, has ruled the country with an iron rod since 1994. At the previous election in 2006, he won 83% of the vote.

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