- Title: Two main challengers to Belarus president barred from election ballot
- Date: 14th July 2020
- Summary: MOSCOW, RUSSIA (RECENT - JUNE 24, 2020) (RUSSIAN POOL) TROOPS IN RED SQUARE SOLDIERS MARCHING AS VICTORY DAY PARADE TAKING PLACE BELARUS PRESIDENT ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO WATCHING SOLDIERS MARCHING RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN WATCHING TROOPS IN RED SQUARE
- Embargoed: 28th July 2020 17:18
- Keywords: Alexander Lukashenko Belarus Belarus election Presidential election democracy election rigged election voting
- Location: MINSK, BELARUS / MOSCOW AND TVER REGION, RUSSIA
- City: MINSK, BELARUS / MOSCOW AND TVER REGION, RUSSIA
- Country: Belarus
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA006CMS8OXL
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The Belarusian election commission declined on Tuesday (July 14) to register President Alexander Lukashenko's two most prominent opponents as candidates for a presidential election next month, all but ensuring victory for the leader in power for 26 years.
Viktor Babariko, a banker who was detained last month, was excluded from the ballot because of a criminal case against him, the commission said.
Valery Tsepkalo, a former ambassador who runs an office park for tech companies, was also rejected, after signatures on a supporting petition were nullified.
The two men had been widely seen as the last candidates left with a chance of defeating Lukashenko, who faces his strongest opposition in years as frustration mounts over the economy, human rights and him downplaying the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday a number of candidates spoke to the media after being granted registration, saying they wanted to see changes in the country, although the elections would not be fair.
Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, whose husband, blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, had intended to run before he was detained, said she intended to fight for him and Belarusians after being registered as a candidate.
Police have arrested hundreds of people in an effort to quell anti-government protests before the elections. Almost all of Lukashenko's main rivals are either arrested or under investigation.
Human rights activists have said more than 700 people have been detained during the election campaign. The authorities have not commented on the figures.
A former collective farm boss, Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for 26 years and allowed little dissent.
Relations between Belarus and traditional ally Russia have been strained in recent months as Moscow reduced subsidies that have propped up Lukashenko. But a crackdown by Lukashenko on opponents is likely to hinder his efforts to mend fences with the West.
(Production: Vladimir Kostin, Vasily Fedosenko, Tatiana Gomozova)
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