Alexander Lukashenko won a fifth term as president of Belarus by a landslide Sunday, and warned the opposition against protests that could derail the lifting of Western sanctions imposed over rights abuse allegations.
With long-standing opposition figures barred from standing in Sunday’s vote and state media giving Lukashenko uniformly positive coverage, the veteran leader ran against three virtual unknowns — only one of whom campaigned.
Lukashenko took 83.49 percent of the vote, election Chief Lidiya Yermoshina said, with his nearest rival Tatiana Korotkevich mustering just 4.42 percent of the ballot.
The result, though preliminary, is the highest ever for Lukashenko whose government made a huge effort to ensure a high turnout of over 86 percent.
The process was closely watched by the European Union, with officials indicating the bloc was ready to lift sanctions against the authoritarian leader, who is regularly accused of human rights violations, if the aftermath of the polls remained incident-free.
While Lukashenko allowed an unauthorized opposition rally in the capital to go ahead without police intervention on Saturday, he warned that he would not tolerate such protests after the vote.
“The polls close at 8:00 pm and I advise you to follow the law,” he said. “You know what will happen.”
A shrewd operator and exploiter of tensions between Moscow and the West, Lukashenko recently raised his standing with the EU by hosting peace talks in Minsk on the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Source: Al-Ahed news