- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2008

FAILED ELECTIONS

Congressional leaders who monitor European affairs are preparing themselves for another rigged election this weekend in Belarus, the former Soviet republic that refuses to break with its Stalinist past.

“The pre-election environment in Belarus remains discouraging,” said , Florida Democrat and chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and , Maryland Democrat and the commission’s co-chairman.

In a joint statement this week, they predicted that the parliamentary elections Sunday will fail to meet standards set by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the 56-member nation body that promotes security and democracy. Belarus was admitted to the OSCE in 1992.

“Thus far, we have seen few signs that these elections will differ significantly from previous elections that failed to live up to OSCE standards,” Mr. Cardin and Mr. Hastings said.

They also criticized Belorussian for demanding the West accept the elections as legitimate, despite what OSCE election monitors might report.

“It is most troubling that Belarus’ leader Alexander Lukashenko has demanded that the West accept the results of the elections as ‘democratic’ or his government will end any effort to improve relations,” the congressmen said. “We view this warning as a setback to democracy and the protection of human rights.”

In the capital, Minsk, on Wednesday, Mr. Lukashenko said, “The elections in Belarus are highly democratic and transparent.”

Earlier he warned Western governments to recognize the legitimacy of the elections or “we will stop talking to them.”

On Tuesday in Washington, a Belorussian opposition leader, freshly released from prison, predicted the elections will be manipulated by Mr. Lukashenko’s cronies.

“I want to underscore that the elections … cannot be recognized as democratic, legitimate, honest or transparent,” told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Mr. Kazulin was arrested at an opposition rally after challenging Mr. Lukashenko in the 2006 presidential election and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison. He was released as part of a deal with the United States and the European Union, which agreed to consider lifting sanctions against Belarus.

Mr. Lukashenko, often called the “last dictator in Europe,” has been in power since 1994.

ENVOY TO ARMENIA

A new U.S. ambassador arrived in Armenia this week, two years after the last American envoy was recalled for breaking U.S. policy by referring to the “genocide” of Armenians by Turks in World War I.

, a career diplomat, took over her duties Thursday at the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Yerevan.

In her Senate confirmation hearing in June, she avoided the trap that ensnared the previous ambassador, , when he referred to the mass killings as “genocide” in a speech in 2005 on a visit to the University of California at Berkeley. He was recalled in 2006.

Miss Yovanovitch told senators that Armenians suffered “one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century” but repeated U.S. policy of refusing to call it genocide. She noted that “presidents of both parties” have decided “not to use that term.”

Armenians insist that Turks deliberately tried to eliminate all Armenians beginning in 1915, but Turkey claims that many Armenians died in armed clashes with Turkish soldiers.

Miss Yovanovitch previously served as U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan and as deputy chief of mission in Ukraine.

cCall Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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