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BRUSSELS, September 24 (Itar-Tass) —— The parliamentary elections in Belarus held on September 23 were a “mockery of a democratic ballot”, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said.
“I deeply regret that parliamentary elections in Belarus have yet again failed to meet international standards of fair and transparent polls. With opposition leaders remaining imprisoned, with some opposition candidates denied registration, with the people's voice silenced, it was a mockery of a democratic ballot,” Schulz said in a statement on Monday, September 24.
He said the elections were marred by limitations on access to media, obstacles for the international observers to monitor the vote count and reports about pressure on different groups of voters.
“Belarus continues on a non-democratic path, depriving its citizens of civic rights and from reaping the benefits of closer engagement with the European Union,” he said.
Schultz regrets that in this situation the European Parliament will not be able to restore official ties with the Belarusian parliament.
“I have long lost the illusions about the good will of the Belarusian leadership to commit to democratic reforms. The European Union should finally devise an effective strategy how to deal with Belarus - meaning how to firmly respond to flagrant abuses of human rights and rule of law and how to support the Belarusian people and their struggling civil society,” the European Parliament President said.
Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Stefan Fule, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, also said that the elections in Belarus were “yet another missed opportunity to conduct elections in line with international standards in Belarus”.
The European Union followed closely developments during the pre-electoral period and on election day. “There were some improvements in the electoral process, such as an improved Electoral Code, but regrettably the elections took place against the background of an overall climate of repression and intimidation,” Ashton and Fule said in a joint statement.
They noted the ODIHR’s assessment that the elections were not administered in an impartial manner, with key OSCE commitments not fully respected, including citizens’ rights to associate, to stand as candidates and to express themselves freely.
“We encourage the authorities to take steps to fully implement Belarus' international commitments to democratic principles and human rights, and stand ready to assist Belarus to this end,” the statement said.