Belarus opposition cries fraud as Lukashenko claims landslide victory

Lukashenko and challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya
Riot in Belarus following Lukashenko’s landslide victory

Belarus opposition claimed massive poll fraud on Monday after election officials said the longtime authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko won his sixth consecutive presidential term, taking over 80% of the votes.

The country’s central election commission said after all the ballots have been counted, Lukashenko took 80.23% of the votes, while his main opposition challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya had only 9.9%.

Tikhanovskaya said she was the winner and demanded the “peaceful” transfer of power amid ongoing protests in the country.

The announcement may exacerbate tensions with opposition supporters, who believe the results of the vote were rigged and plan to gather in Minsk for more protests on Monday evening.

Lukashenko and challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

“The results of the vote announced by the central election commission don’t correspond with the reality and go completely against common sense,” Anna Krasulina, spokeswoman for Tsikhanouskaya, said Monday.

Thousands of people took to the streets in a number of Belarusian cities and towns on Sunday night, protesting the early count suggesting Lukashenko’s landslide victory.

Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher and political novice, rejected the official figures, saying “I will believe my own eyes — the majority was for us.”

Her supporters quickly took to the streets of the capital to protest what they saw as official manipulation of the vote.

They faced rows of riot police in black uniforms who moved quickly to disperse the demonstrators, firing flash-bang grenades and beating them with truncheons.

The brutal crackdown followed a tense campaign that saw massive rallies against Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron fist for 26 years.

Lukashenko has not yet commented on the results or the protests, only saying on Monday that “the people” should be the cornerstone of any politics, according to the state news agency Belta.

Several other cities across the country saw similar crackdowns on protesters. According to the Viasna human rights group, more than 200 protesters were detained, dozens sustained injuries and one died as the result of the clashes with police.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said Monday no one was killed during the protests. Officials wouldn’t say how many people were detained or injured.

On Monday morning, Belarus’ Investigative Committee opened a criminal probe into mass riots and violence toward police officers.