Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

Lukashenko wins Belarus presidential vote

President Alexander Lukashenko gains a fifth term in office, taking more than 80 percent of votes

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko won a fifth term in office by a landslide on Sunday in an election that could see an easing of relations with the West and raise questions about his ties to Russia.

Lukashenko's re-election five years ago led to mass protests and the imprisonment of leading opposition figures, but support for his 20-year-old regime has risen since he cast himself as a guarantor of stability in the face of an economic crisis and a pro-Russian separatist conflict in neighboring Ukraine.

The West has long ostracized Lukashenko's Belarus, described in 2005 by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as "Europe's last dictatorship," over its human rights record and lack of tolerance for political dissent. It has imposed economic sanctions on some Belarussian officials and companies.

Nevertheless, his criticism of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year and his hosting of Ukraine peace talks suggest he is seeking to improve his image in the West, observers say.

The central election commission said Lukashenko won 83.5 of the vote, slightly more than the 80 percent support registered in the 2010 elections, the head of the central election commission said in a briefing late on Sunday.

Around 6.5 percent voted against all candidates on the ballot, according to the commission.

The European Union will lift its sanctions on Belarus, including those on Lukashenko, for four months after Sunday's vote, barring any last-minute crackdown, diplomatic sources said on Friday.


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