President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has won a sixth term in office. The country's Central Election Commission (CEC) announced on Monday (Aug. 12) that all the ballots had been counted and Lukashenko, 65, took 80.23 percent of the votes, while his main opposition challenger, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 37, had 9.9 percent.
Tikhanovskaya, a former English teacher, entered the election in place of her jailed husband, a popular anti-government blogger. The other three candidates, Anna Kanopatskaya, Andrei Dmitriyev and Sergei Cherechen each won less than two percent. Meanwhile, 6.02 percent have voted against all candidates.Turnout was reported as 84.23 percent.
Human rights groups said more than 1,300 people were detained in a police crackdown ahead of the election. After casting his vote on Sunday, Lukashenko denied imposing repressive measures as "fake news or far-fetched accusations."
On Sunday evening, the police used tear gas to disperse protests in Belarus as rioters hit the streets after first polls showed Lukashenko won nearly 80% of the vote, various media outlets reported. Human rights groups said one person was killed and dozens were injured. The Belarusian Interior Ministry said police had made 3,000 arrests.
Meanwhile, Lukashenko, who before launching his political career worked as director of a collective farm and served in the Soviet Border Troops and in the Soviet Army, started to receive congratulations on his new term.
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated his Belarusian counterpart on his victory. "I expect that your statesmanship will facilitate the further development of mutually beneficial Russian-Belarusian relations in all spheres," Putin said, according to a Kremlin readout of his telegram.
The leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Azerbaijan have sent messages of support.
But several western powers have expressed doubts over the poll's legitimacy.
The U.S. government said it is concerned about the conduct of the election, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said "was not free and fair."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for the election results to be published.
Lukashenko, 65, the longest-serving president in Europe, has ruled the former Soviet state of 9.5 million people since 1994.
UPDATE 14/08/2020 19:59
Tens of thousands of protesters marched towards government buildings in central Minsk, holding flowers and signs demanding an end to violence and the resignation of Lukashenko, The Guardian reported on Friday (Aug.14)
UPDATE 16/08/2020 18:01
The opposition, the United States and the European Union called for dialogue between different political parties in Belarus. Earlier, President Lukashenko voiced concerns over foreign interference in the protests. He also said Russia will help Belarus ensure security in the country after protests broke out following the country's presidential election.
With reporting by news agencies