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Belarus elects lower house of parliament on Sunday

September 23, 2012, 4:09 UTC+3

The number of candidates running for 110 deputy seats decreased from over 360 to 293

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MINSK, September 23 (Itar-Tass) — Elections to the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the National Assembly of Belarus (parliament), will be held on Sunday.

Early voting started five days ago. Almost 20 percent of registered voters turned up at polling stations in four days, according to the republic’s Central Electoral Commission.

Voters were slightly more active than at the 2008 parliamentary elections when about 19 percent cast their ballots in early voting in four days.

Nikolai Lozovik, the secretary of the Central Electoral Commission, said that no official complaints had been received from monitors and voters as of yet. The number of candidates running for 110 deputy seats decreased from over 360 to 293 after two major opposition parties decided to withdraw their candidates from the polls on September 15.

Thirty-one activists of the Belarusian Popular Front and 35 candidates of the United Civil Party of Belarus lost their deputy mandates on September 17.

The Belarusian Popular Front decided to withdraw its candidates because the authorities had failed to fulfill two of its conditions: to free imprisoned opposition leaders from jail and include all representatives of the party in district and local election commissions.

“Our decision to withdraw our candidates will help us preserve a clear and honest position and will facilitate our work with Belarusian society. Deputy candidates from the Belarusian Popular Front carried out a great deal of work for Belarus’ future. They took part in debates, printed their party programs and held hundreds of meetings with people,” the party leader, Alexei Yanukevich, said.

The Belarusian Popular Front has called on voters to refrain from voting because there are no fair elections in Belarus.

Anatoly Lebedko, the leader of the United Civil Party, said that the party had used a new tactics of “guided boycott” for the first time.

President Alexander Lukashenko considers their behavior to be a sign of weakness. “This is what these parties are. They’ve shown that they are not worth a sixpence. They (the opposition) are going to lose totally even that dozen who are still supporting them,” Lukashenko predicted.

According to the Central Electoral Commission of Belarus, about 700 international monitors have been accredited at the parliamentary elections. Most of them come from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Representatives of the Central Electoral Commissions of other countries will also monitor the voting process in Belarus.

About 7.1 million voters are included in voter lists. Forty-three polling stations have been organized at Belarusian embassies in 32 countries.

The 110-seat House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus is elected for a term of four years by universal, free, equal and direct voting by secret ballot according to the majority system. More than 50% of voters included in the voter lists should cast their ballots to make the elections valid. A winning candidate is supposed to gain more than half of votes in his constituency.

Lidiya Yermoshina, the head of the Central Electoral Commission, predicts a turnout of more than 50%.

“I am sure that the elections will be valid,” Yermoshina said on Saturday. The turnout was 75.3% at the 2008 parliamentary elections.

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