[JURIST] Thousands of opposition supporters rallied in Minsk Sunday to protest what they claimed were the rigged results of the Belarus [JURIST news archive] presidential election, defying threats of a government crackdown. Current president Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile], who has ruled for 12 years, is expected to win his third five-year term by a landslide, and early exit polls suggest he has won more than 80% of the vote. Opposition candidates say, however, that they have been denied access to the media during, that their supporters have been jailed [JURIST report], and that some foreign observers have been barred. Late Sunday local time opposition leader Aleksandr Milinkevich [Wikipedia profile; campaign website] called on the demonstrators to disperse, but to return again Monday [BELAPAN report] after the official results of the poll are released. Belarus news agency BELAPAN has extended coverage of the Belarus presidential election in English.
The Belarus Central Election Commission [official website] has thusfar denied receiving any official complaints over the conduct of the poll, although commission head Lidiya Yermoshina said Sunday she expected OSCE election observers [backgrounder] to have a "very bad opinion" of the vote [BELAPAN report]. Opposition leaders have hopes of ousting Lukashenko in a bloodless popular revolt along the lines of the recent "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine and the "Rose Revolution" is Georgia, both of which saw authoritarian regimes replaced by more ostensibly-democratic leaders. AFP has more.
7:45 PM ET - AP is reporting that President Lukashenko has won a third term with 82.6 percent of the vote, according to top Belarus election officials.