Belarus kicks off presidential election

Minsk, Oct 11 (IANS) Belarus on Sunday kicked-off its fifth presidential election in 21 years since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The polling stations opened at 8.00 a.m., and will remain open for 12 hours. The electoral register comprises over 6.9 million voters, including more than 5,700 outside the country, Xinhua news agency reported.

The results of the election will be announced by the Central Election Commission in about 10 days after the day’s polling is over.

Major candidates include incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, “Say the Truth!” campaign activist Tatyana Korotkevich, supreme hetman (military commander of the Cossacks) of the organisation Belarusian Cossacks Nikolai Ulakhovich, and Belarusian Liberal Democratic Party chairman Sergei Gaidukevich.

A candidate will be recognised as elected if he or she receives more than half of the votes and the election will be recognised as valid if more than half of eligible voters take part in the polls.

In Belarus, the term for the president is five years, but due to a 1996 referendum, the election that was supposed to occur in 1999 was pushed back to 2001.

Under the 1994 constitution, the president could only serve for two terms, but due to a change in the constitution, term limits were eliminated.

During the course of the office, three elections were held in 1994, 2001 and 2006.

The last election was held on December 19, 2010. Lukashenko has been the only person who has served as president since the elections in 1994.

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