MINSK — Alexander Lukashenko won a fifth term as president of Belarus by a landslide on Sunday, and warned the opposition against protests that could derail the lifting of Western sanctions imposed over rights abuse allegations.
With long-standing opposition figures barred from standing in Sunday's vote and state media giving Lukashenko uniformly positive coverage, the veteran leader ran against three virtual unknowns – only one of whom campaigned.
Lukashenko took 83.49 per cent of the vote, election chief Lidiya Yermoshina said, with his nearest rival Tatiana Korotkevich mustering just 4.42 per cent of the ballot.
The result, though preliminary, is the highest ever for Lukashenko whose government made a huge effort to ensure a high turnout of over 86 per cent.
The process was closely watched by the European Union, with officials indicating the bloc was ready to lift sanctions against the authoritarian leader if the aftermath of the polls remained incident-free.
While Lukashenko allowed an unauthorised opposition rally in the capital to go ahead without police intervention on Saturday, he warned that he would not tolerate such protests after the vote.
"The polls close at 8:00pm and I advise you to follow the law," he said.
Despite at times prickly relations with Moscow, he and Belarus's economy are propped up by Russia, which supplies the country of 9.5 million with discount price energy.
Lukashenko has the mandate to extend his 21-year grip on the landlocked eastern European country.
The last elections in 2010 led to mass street protests against his victory, triggering a crackdown during which a number of leading opposition figures were arrested. — AFP