Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko re-elected by landslide, say officials

The opposition rejects the results that show the president of 26 years won 80 per cent of the vote

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko casts his ballot at a polling station during the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus August 9, 2020. Sergei Gapon/Pool via REUTERS

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko won a landslide re-election victory, the central election commission said on Monday, after late night clashes between police and thousands of protesters who said the vote was rigged.

Figures released by the election commission on Monday gave Mr Lukashenko 80 per cent of the vote.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a former English teacher who emerged from obscurity a few weeks ago to become Mr Lukashenko's main rival, won 9.9 per cent of the vote, the data showed.

Ms Tikhanouskaya rejected the result and called on Mr Lukashenko to begin talks on a transition of power.

"The authorities are not listening to us. The authorities need to think about peaceful ways to hand over power," she said.

But while Mr Lukashenko has not responded directly to the accusation, he made clear that he would act against deadly protests.

"The response will be appropriate. We won't allow the country to be torn apart," the 65-year-old leader was quoted by the Belta news agency as saying.

Mr Lukashenko repeated allegations that shadowy forces abroad were trying to manipulate protesters he called "sheep" in order to topple him, something he said he'd never allow.

"They are trying to orchestrate mayhem," said Lukashenko. "But I have already warned: there will be no revolution."

At least one person was killed after being knocked over by a police van and dozens were injured in the clashes that began after polling stations closed on Sunday, a representative of the rights group Spring 96 told Reuters.

Demonstrators run away from police as they gather to protest against a result of the Belarusian presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. Police and protesters clashed in Belarus' capital and the major city of Brest on Sunday after the presidential election in which the authoritarian leader who has ruled for a quarter-century sought a sixth term in office. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

A former Soviet collective farm manager, Mr Lukashenko has ruled the country since 1994. He has cast himself as a guarantor of stability but has battled a wave of anger over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the economy and his human rights record.

Ms Tikhanovskaya entered the race after her husband, an anti-government blogger who intended to run, was jailed.

Her rallies have drawn some of the biggest crowds since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

A severe crackdown on protests could hurt Mr Lukashenko's attempts to mend fences with the West amid fraying ties with traditional ally Russia, which has tried to press Belarus into closer economic and political union.

Human rights groups say more than 1,300 people were detained in a crackdown before the election, including independent election observers and members of Ms Tikhanovskaya's campaign team.

After casting his vote on Sunday, Mr Lukashenko denied imposing repressive measures as "fake news or far-fetched accusations".

Presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya casts her ballot at a polling station during the presidential election in Minsk on August 9, 2020.  / AFP / Sergei GAPON
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