EU brands Belarus parliamentary elections "lost opportunity", Lukashenko's girlfriend becomes MP

EU brands Belarus parliamentary elections
The 22 year old Maria Vasilevich and former Miss Belarus became the youngest candidate to win a seat in this week's parliamentary elections
By bne IntelliNews November 20, 2019

The European Union (EU) has joined the chorus of critics of Belarus’ November 17 elections for the lower chamber of parliament, which are widely believed to be rubber-stamped by the nation's authorities.

"[The] parliamentary elections in Belarus took place in an overall calm atmosphere. Nevertheless, it was a lost opportunity to conduct elections fully in line with international standards," the EU's External Action spokesperson said in a statement on November 18.

The preliminary assessment of the OSCE/ODIHR International Election Observation Mission states that there was an overall disregard for fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression.

In addition, the OSCE/ODIHR notes that a limited amount of campaigning took place, within a restrictive environment that, overall, did not provide for a meaningful or competitive political contest. A number of key OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission recommendations remain unaddressed.

“In light of the upcoming presidential elections in 2020, it is crucial the Belarusian authorities resume work on comprehensive electoral reform without delay. This will also be key for achieving the full potential of EU-Belarus relations, building on the positive cooperation of the last three years,” the OSCE/ODIHR said in a statement. The European Union is committed to supporting a stable, democratic, sovereign and prosperous future of the country, for the benefit of the people of Belarus, and will continue its work with this objective firmly in mind.”

Separately the 22 year old Maria Vasilevich and former Miss Belarus became the youngest candidate to win a seat in parliament during the elections, the Times reports. The former beauty queen has been reportedly romantically involved with Lukashenko since she was crowned Miss Belarus in 2018 and has frequently been seen in public with the strong man leader.