Crackdown in Belarus amid poll protests

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 11 Aug 2020

The main challenger in Belarus' disputed election called on President Alexander Lukashenko to give up power yesterday after a fierce police crackdown on protesters saw dozens wounded and hundreds detained.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, whose surprise candidacy is posing the biggest challenge to the veteran leader in years, said Sunday's presidential vote had been rigged and accused authorities of resorting to force to hold on to power.

"The voters made their choice but the authorities did not hear us, they have broken with the people," Tikhanovskaya said after police used stun grenades, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse crowds in Minsk and other cities.

Election officials confirmed Lukashenko's reelection to a sixth term yesterday, saying he had won with more than 80 percent of the vote, with Tikhanovskaya coming second with just under 10 percent.

The 65-year-old former collective farm boss has ruled since 1994, earning the nickname of "Europe's last dictator."

European governments questioned the results of the election, with the European Union calling for ballots to be accurately counted and Germany voicing doubts about the conduct of the vote and Poland calling for an emergency EU summit on the situation. Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Lukashenko, a longtime ally, as did Xi Jinping.

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