- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — In a development that surprised no one, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus was declared the winner of a fifth term on Monday following an election campaign boycotted by the opposition.

Lukashenko won 83.5 percent of the vote, according to Lidia Yermoshina, chairwoman of the Belarusian Central Election Commission, who said Lukashenko’s closest contender had captured less than 5 percent of the vote.

Lukashenko’s share was an increase from the 79.7 percent of the vote the authoritarian leader of 21 years was reported to have won in 2010.

About 100 opposition supporters held a peaceful protest march after polls closed Sunday to show their discontent with the ballot.

Opposition activists also cast doubt on the high turnout, which election officials said was over 87 percent.

“The election commissions made up the results as they wished,” opposition leader Anatoly Lebedko said. “I’m amazed by the scale. They made up a staggering turnout, with half-empty polling stations.”

Valentin Stefanovich of the human rights group Vensa said some polling stations had 50 percent of their ballots cast in early voting.

Yermoshina explained the high turnout by saying many people — about 36 percent of all who had cast votes— had opted for early voting. She said all the ballots had been counted inside Belarus but those cast at embassies abroad have yet to be counted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin promptly congratulated the 61-year-old Lukashenko, calling him on the phone. The Kremlin said the results of the vote “showed wide support for Lukashenko from Belarusian public.”

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two leaders also discussed Russia’s plans to set up an air base in Belarus, an idea that seems to have irked both Lukashenko and the opposition in Belarus.

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Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed to this report from Moscow.


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