Belarus’s two main opposition parties said they would boycott a parliamentary election next Sunday, denouncing it as a fake exercise and are calling on people to “go fishing or visit your parents” instead. The poll for the 110-seat chamber takes place two years after police cracked down on street protests after a presidential election which installed hardline President Alexander Lukashenko for a fourth term in power. Scores of opposition activists were arrested in the December 2010 unrest and many people, including several candidates who stood against Lukashenko, were handed prison terms. “Honest people cannot take part in pseudo-elections to a fake parliament,” Anatoly Lebedko, leader of the United Civic Party, said at a weekend rally at which the party announced it was withdrawing its 38 candidates from the election. “I know I shall not be elected. And that is in no way because people will not vote for me,” said Grigoriy Kostusev, deputy head of the Belarussian People’s Front, which also opted to pull its 31 candidates out of the poll.
The two parties appealed to voters to boycott the ballot which they said could not be considered democratic because opposition activists remained in jail. Human rights agencies say there are about 15 political prisoners in the former Soviet republic. “Go fishing. Visit your parents. Have some coffee with your friends. Don’t take part in a farce,” Lebedko said.
Authorities reacted sharply to the boycott call. “Those who do not want to take part in the elections and want to disrupt them have shown (by their action) that we need to perfect the law here. We need to make it much stricter. It seems that democracy is not to everybody’s liking,” Lidiya Yermoshina, head of the central election commission, told Belarus 1 television.