Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Western ambassadors boycott Belarus inauguration in protest over election

Reuters, MINSK

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in yesterday in a ceremony boycotted by Western ambassadors after his re-election last month in what the opposition and international monitors said was a rigged vote.

Minsk has brushed off all criticism of the elections, which were followed by huge protests when hundreds of people were arrested.

By the will of the people of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko has been elected the president of Belarus,” Central Election Commission chairwoman Lidia Yermoshina said.

“The voters made this decision ... in a free and democratic election,” she said before Lukashenko took his oath.

His opponents denounced his landslide election win as fraudulent and an international monitoring team said the count carried out at many election centers had been “bad or very bad.”

Lukashenko has been embroiled in row with Germany and Poland after accusing their security services of plotting a coup against him, implying they were involved in the demonstrations. The EU and the US had said their envoys to Belarus would not attend the ceremony.

Many observers had expected the inauguration to be held next month and some have explained the earlier timing by Lukashenko’s desire to legitimize his Dec. 19 victory as quickly as possible.

Western governments have demanded Lukashenko should free opposition activists, including four challengers for the presidency rounded up during the protests.

Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994 in an autocratic style.

EU lawmakers urged the bloc’s governments on Thursday to impose sanctions on Lukashenko to pressure him into releasing the political detainees and do more to bolster civil society.

Sanctions will probably include a travel ban on Lukashenko and his supporters. The bloc may also agree to oppose any future financial support for Minsk from the IMF and block talks on a financial assistance program for reforms.

Lukashenko said on Thursday that Belarus would reply to any sanctions with measures of its own.

“If someone tries to introduce economic or other sanctions against [our] country we must react immediately and prepare countermeasures, including the toughest ones,” he said.

The EU imposed sanctions on Belarus after a disputed poll in 2006, but suspended them in 2008 to encourage democratic reforms.

EU governments are expected to take a decision on any new punitive measures on Jan. 31.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top