Tallinn students protest Belarus elections

  • 2008-10-01
  • By Jana Belugina
TALLINN - Belarussians studying in Tallinn demonstrated in front of the consulate general Sunday to protest against the parliamentary elections in Belarus, which have been dismissed as a sham by international elections observers and watchdog groups.
"We protest the dictatorship and imitation of free elections in Belarus," the students said in a statement, echoing statements from opposition groups there. They contend that voter fraud was widespread and manipulation was blatant.

"First, electoral commissions are formed of state officials, and representatives of the public are not admitted, and secondly, commissions at polling stations consist of officials who are easily influenced," said Arthur Tsurbakou, a member of the United Civil Party and a spokesman for the students.

The Belarussian opposition claims that the elections were rigged and the number of people voting did not reflect the number on voting rolls. "Again, there are no democratic elections in Belarus. The house of representatives can't be considered democratic since members will be nominated by Lukashenko's finger," said Vintsuk Vechorka, co-chairman of the United Democratic Forces, Belarus' main opposition group.
Representatives of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE,) the continent's main election-monitoring body, have said that transparency was far below international standards and manipulation was rampant, even in the rare cases in which access to polling stations was granted.

"The count was assessed as bad or very bad in 48 percent of polling stations visited. Where access was possible, several cases of deliberate falsification of results were observed," an OSCE representative said.
"Access to polling stations was prevented in 35 percent of cases" and methods of ensuring transparency were "not implemented" despite promises, the representative said.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko rejected accusations of fraud and asserted that the elections were clean and the results would stand. "It will be very hard not to recognize these elections," he said. Lukashenko also threatened to "stop any kind of negotiations" with the West if the elections "happen to be 'undemocratic' again."

Not a single opposition candidate won a seat in the election. Hundreds of opposition supporters gathered in Minsk, the Belarussian capital, Sunday to protest.
The Belarussian students protesting in Tallinn, who number about 10, had been dismissed from their universities back home because of ideological conflicts. "We are studying at Estonian universities under an Estonian government-sponsored program whose objective is to help oppositional-minded students from Belarus," Tsurbakou said.

Belarussian citizens living in Estonia have been active during the elections despite the demonstration by the students, who have taken out the ballots at the consulate and thrown them away.