At least one opposition candidate has won a seat in parliamentary elections in Belarus, their first representation in the chamber for 20 years. The Electoral Commission said Anna Konopatskaya of the United Civil Party won one of the 110 seats being contested in the lower house. Lawmakers loyal to hard-line President Alexander Lukashenko are expected to occupy most remaining seats. Opposition candidates were able to enter more easily than earlier votes. The opposition’s participation in the election is a concession to Western calls for more transparency in Belarus, correspondents say. External monitors were also given access to the vote count.
Relations between the West and Belarus have warmed since the president freed all remaining political prisoners after his landslide re-election in October and his move to host peace talks between Ukraine and Russia.
The president, in power since 1994, has kept Belarus strategically close to Russia but the relationship became more strained following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 – since then he has made overtures to the West.
Independent candidate Elena Anisim, who has links to the opposition, was also reported to have been elected. “We’ve done everything so that there aren’t complaints from the Western side. We accommodated their requests,” President Lukashenko told reporters after casting his vote on Sunday in Minsk.