Polls close in Belarus presidential election that saw a record turnout

Incumbent President, Alexander Lukashenko, has won 82 percent of the vote in the election in Belarus, according to preliminary results. The poll, taking place amid claims of a crackdown on the opposition, saw a record turnout.

There are five candidates running for the highest post in the country, including the incumbent Lukashenko who is aiming for a sixth term. Svetlana Tikhanovskya, who was largely unknown until she stepped in to replace her husband as a presidential candidate, is believed to be his main challenger. There were many rallies in support of her ahead of the election.

The preliminary results announced by the election commission gave Lukashenko 82 percent of the vote, earlier exit polls suggest Tikhanovskaya, is second – with 6.8 percent.

The Central Election Committee said that at 79 percent of the population took part in the vote by 6 p.m. on Sunday, pointing out that it’s a “very high number.” Queues were reported at some polling stations, with one of the candidates even having to wait to cast his vote. Many in Belarus complained they were unable to get in due to long lines, but authorities decided that prolonging opening times was unnecessary.

A woman walks out of a voting booth to cast her ballot at a polling station during the presidential election in Minsk on August 9, 2020. © AFP / Sergei GAPON

There were also lines at Belarusian embassies around the globe as citizens living abroad were able to participate in the election.

Some 3,000 people stood in line at the Belarus embassy in Moscow, with staff saying that many ran out of time and couldn’t wait to cast their votes.

Lukashenko was accused of cracking down on opposition and media ahead of the vote. On the day of the elections three journalists from Russian opposition TV channel, Dozhd (Rain), who were in Belarus to cover the vote, were detained in the capital Minsk. Russia’s Foreign Ministry later clarified that they were working in the country without proper accreditation. They’ll now be deported from the country. Two local journalists, who cooperate with RT’s Ruptly video agency, were also arrested in the capital, while filming at a polling station. The cameramen were reportedly taken to a police station, with the broadcaster unable to get in touch with them hours after they were detained.

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Central Election Commission head, Lidya Yermoshina, there were a lot of complaints about violations, but those were only formal issues “not worth looking into.” Most complaints looked the same and were based on a template uploaded by somebody online, she explained.

Lukashenko has repeatedly claimed that foreign forces are planning to incite violence on the day of the election and destabilize the situation in the country. On Saturday the websites of the State Security Committee (KGB) and the Interior Ministry came under a “large wave” of cyber-attacks, authorities said insisting they were successfully repelled.

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‘Large wave’ of DDoS attacks hits KGB & Interior Ministry websites in Belarus on presidential election day

On Sunday afternoon military vehicles were filmed military vehicles parked next to the road outside the country’s capital Minsk. The camouflage-painted jeeps were accompanied by police cars.

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