Alexander Lukashenko Wins Fifth Presidential Term in Belarus

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Image: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko talks to reporters after casting his ballot at a polling station in Minsk on October 11, 2015.TATYANA ZENKOVICH / EPA

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MINSK, Belarus — President Alexander Lukashenko won a fifth term in office by a landslide on Sunday, but he said anything less than 80 percent of the vote would be a sign that his support was slipping.

While no reliable independent exit polls were conducted, the state sociology institute said its survey suggested Lukashenko would get 83 percent of the vote. The Belarusian opposition boycotted the election.

Lukashenko's re-election five years ago led to mass protests and the imprisonment of leading opposition figures, but support for his 20-year-old regime has risen since he cast himself as a guarantor of stability in the face of an economic crisis and a pro-Russian separatist conflict in neighboring Ukraine.

Image: Alexander Lukashenko
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko after voting in Minsk on Sunday.Sergei Grits / AP

The West has long ostracized Lukashenko's Belarus, described in 2005 by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as "Europe's last dictatorship," over its human-rights record and clamp-down on political dissent. It has imposed economic sanctions on some Belarusian officials and companies.

On Friday, a European Union official said the EU may suspend its sanctions on Belarus.

Lukashenko said it would be a bad sign if he received fewer votes than during the last election in 2010, when he won 79.65 percent.

"That would mean that people were beginning to move away and were dissatisfied with some of my policies," the 61-year-old president said after voting in Minsk, the Belarusian capital.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Monday that the presidential vote fell short of the country's democratic commitments.

Kent Harstedt, who is responsible for leading the OSCE's observer mission in Belarus, told reporters that observers were disappointed by shortcomings during the counting.

Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian writer who was awarded the Nobel Literature Prize last week, was among those critical of the election.

"For Lukashenko it's not important how we vote," she said at a news conference in Berlin on Saturday. "As Stalin said, 'it's not important how they vote but who counts the vote.'"

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