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On The Scene

Q&A: Belarus poll-rig claims

Lukashenko
Lukashenko denies any allegations of falsifying the poll  


MINSK, Belarus (CNN) -- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says it has evidence the vote that re-elected President Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus was falsified and undemocratic. CNN's Ryan Chilcote reports.

Q: How seriously falsified is the OSCE saying the election was?

A. The OSCE would prefer to focus on the unfairness and undemocratic nature of the election in the pre-voting period.

They point to what they say was the use of the secret police to intimidate members of the political opposition to dissuade them from organising in any sort of political activity.

They also charge that the mass media was manipulated -- the mass media being something that the state has a monopoly on -- to "demonise" the opposition candidate in the election. On the other hand the OSCE said the opposition did not have sufficient access to the voting process.

Q: Is there any evidence President Lukashenko was involved?

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CNN's Ryan Chilcote says the OSCE contends the poll was ''falsified''
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A. There is no hard evidence of falsification involving President Lukashenko. Here is a group of international observers who pointed out several things they said was wrong with how the election was carried out -- they did not get to specific allegations of unfairness on election day.

But even if there were falsifications at the polls the OSCE would not necessarily know.

Q: How did Lukashenko respond to the allegations?

A. Lukashenko called it "a beautiful victory," not only for himself but for the people of Belarus. He has dismissed any allegations he falsified this result.

He has appeared on national TV saying the opposition is "nearly dead" and that the revolution if anyone was waiting for one did not happen.

Q: So what kind of evidence did the OSCE have of actual vote rigging?

A. Access to the election process was difficult though there were 7,000 observers on the ground.

These observers noted that the stacks of votes for Lukashenko and his chief opponent, Vladimir Goncharik, were of similar sizes in most of the precincts.

Yet the results said something much different -- they said Lukashenko had 76 percent of the vote.

Q: But could Lukashenko have been the winner in any case?

A. Absolutely. He is seen as a man of who is representing the interests of the people here at a very difficult moment for them.

Irrespective of how bad things may be here in Belarus the public here does not know any different .

The public have seen President Lukashenko on Belarus state TV for the past seven years. Their only other media access is Russian TV, showing a Russia which has been in a bit of crisis for the last seven years, and they believe that their president has protected them from that kind of rabid reform.

They may not have a great deal of money but they have been getting their pensions on time and they have been paid.

Q: What about allegations Lukashenko takes a tough line on dissenters?

A. It is very clear that the authorities did their best to try and make things as free as possible for the week the international community was there. This was never allowed to happen before the international monitors showed up to take their places.

Q: And what of the allegations of opponents disappearing?

A. I interviewed President Lukashenko and his response was three-fold. He said first of all he is a European and Europeans are civilised and did not do the things that were alleged.

Secondly he have never had any need to kidnap or kill and member of the opposition. They were politically bankrupt already and he would have been better to protect them to order to run against them in this election because they are no competitors.

Thirdly, as head of state he said it would be inappropriate for the president to comment until criminal investigations into the disappearances that were under way had reached their conclusion.

Q: What happens next?

A. The OSCE officials go back to their various member states saying the election process was unfair and undemocratic and did not meet international standards.

However, they say it is important not to encourage the country to become more isolated.

For the people of Belarus it will probably be the status quo.

The president said he did not detect anything revolutionary in the polls. He plans to continue what he has been doing.

A lot of things he stands for are backed by a large proportion of the population -- for example union with the Russians.

Lukashenko is very popular and considers Belarus to be a country sandwiched between Russia and an expanding NATO and wishes to be as close to Russia as possible.

He is a charismatic speaker and knows how to speak to people in their own language. He may be seen as a "difficult" personality but he is seen as a law and order man. The people think he is the man to get things done, including fighting corruption and cleaning up the country.






RELATED STORIES:
• Belarus poll falsified, say monitors
September 10, 2001
• Belarus president's victory declaration disputed
September 9, 2001
• Belarus security clampdown threat
September 9, 2001
• Shadow over Belarus poll
September 8, 2001

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