ON THE BORDER
Elections called by the Belarus opposition ended on Sunday. The organizers of the vote spent ten days collecting ballots door to door, and announced that 51.96 of the country’s eligible voters had taken part. On Friday, the Warsaw-based candidate Zenon Pozniak had pulled out of the race, calling it a “criminal gamble” in a letter faxed to the offices of the Belarus Popular Front. The Front subsequently disassociated itself from the ballot. Meanwhile, his opponent, Mikhail Chigir, a former banker and prime minister, was arrested in connection with alleged dubious loans he made while working as a banker. Chigir charged that the arrest was politically motivated.
Belarus’ Justice Ministry last week issued a warning to opposition parties and public organizations involved in the alternative presidential election that their actions in setting up an alternative Central Electoral Commission and putting forward candidates were illegal. Given that this was third such warning to a number of the organizations, there were fears that some of the organizations would be banned. Opposition leaders last week condemned the disappearances of former Interior Minister Yuri Zakharenko and former Belarus Central Bank head Tamara Vinnikova, charging that it signaled “a strengthening of the dictatorial regime” of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.