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Belarus vote set to extend control of strongman Lukashenko

The national elections commission in Belarus says more than a third of the country’s voters have cast early ballots in the country’s parliamentary election, raising concerns that the results will be manipulated.

Sunday’s election is expected to continue the stifling control that President Alexander Lukashenko has held over the former Soviet republic since 1994. Many opposition candidates, including the two opposition members in the current parliament, were kept off the ballot.

According to the commission, nearly 36% voted early. The opposition sees that procedure as fraught with abuse because the ballot boxes are unguarded and the vote count is done without the presence of observers.

Voters receive their ballot papers a polling station during the parliamentary elections in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)

Last week, an independent observer filmed a woman trying to stuff ballots into a box at a polling station in Brest. The election commission dismissed the video as unimportant.

Belarus' Army servicemen examine a list of candidates at a polling station during parliamentary elections in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)

Belarus' Army servicemen prepare to cast his ballot a polling station during parliamentary elections, in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)

A Belarus' Army serviceman casts his ballot at a polling station during parliamentary elections, in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)

In this photo taken on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, a crow sits on an election poster in Minsk, Belarus, ahead of the parliamentary election to be held on Sunday. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)

In this photo taken on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, a woman walks past a huge election banner and Belarus national flags in Minsk, Belarus, ahead of the parliamentary election to be held on Sunday. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)

In this photo taken on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, a Belarus' Army serviceman casts his ballot during an early election at a polling station in Minsk, Belarus, ahead of the parliamentary election to be held on Sunday. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)

In this photo taken on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, an election campaign volunteer, left, distributes leaflets, in Minsk, Belarus, ahead of the parliamentary election to be held on Sunday. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)

In this photo taken on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, a woman sets an old Belarus' flag at an election tent in Minsk, Belarus, ahead of the parliamentary election to be held on Sunday. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)

In this photo taken on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, People look at an election's poster in Minsk, Belarus, ahead of the parliamentary election to be held on Sunday. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)

In this photo taken on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, a Belarus Army serviceman casts his ballot during an early election at a polling station in Minsk, Belarus, ahead of the parliamentary election to be held on Sunday. (AP PhotoSergei Grits)