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Belarus holds vote, ignores blatant ballot box stuffing

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Belarus is holding a parliamentary election but with top opposition candidates kept off the ballot, only loyalists to the nation’s authoritarian president will win in what observers see as a dress rehearsal for next year’s similarly skewered presidential vote.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the ex-Soviet nation of 10 million with an iron hand for a quarter century, showing little tolerance for dissent or free media and extending his rule through elections that the West has described as neither free nor fair.

In Sunday’s election, 516 candidates are contesting 110 parliament seats but opposition candidates were not allowed to run for various reasons, including “unfounded criticism of the government.” Election officials have denied opposition claims of voting violations even when presented with concrete evidence of fraud.

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