Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

Signature-collection stage ends in Belarus presidential campaign

The deadline expires on October 29 for the nomination groups of the 14 presidential contenders remaining in the race to deliver ballot-access signatures to local election authorities.

The nomination groups were required to gather 100,000 valid signatures among voters to enable their presidential hopefuls to get access to the ballot in the vote scheduled for December 19.

As of Thursday, 11 presidential contenders had reported having collected the required number.

Those included Alyaksandr Lukashenka; Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, leader of the "Tell the Truth!" campaign; the United Civic Party`s nominee Yaraslaw Ramanchuk; the Belarusian Popular Fronts presidential nominee, Ryhor Kastusyow; Andrey Sannikaw, leader of an opposition group called European Belarus; economist Viktar Tsyareshchanka; Ales Mikhalevich, a former deputy chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front; Mikalay Statkevich, chairman of the Narodnaya Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party; Dzmitry Uss, director general of a company called Trivium; Vitsyebsk businessman Uladzimir Pravalski; and the Belarusian Christian Democracy party`s nominee, Vital Rymashewski.

The remaining three hopefuls - Ivan Kulikow, a laboratory head at the Sosny nuclear research center near Minsk; Yury Hlushakow, first deputy chairman of the Belarusian Party of the Greens; and Syarhey Ivanow, a former army officer resident in Minsk - did not yet report having coping with the task.

Syarhey Haydukevich, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party, and Pyotr Barysaw, a construction engineer, who were initially among the contenders, pulled out of the race earlier this month.

The nomination groups of the presidential contenders remaining in the race have until the end of the day on October 29 to submit all signature lists to local election commissions that are to verify the authenticity of the signatures in the next 10 days and deliver their reports to the central election commission not later than November 13.

The candidate registration stage will run from November 14 till November 23. Officials of the central election commission earlier said that its outcome was most likely to be announced on one day to give the candidates equal time for their electioneering campaigns.

Political analysts predict that the election authorities would grant candidate registration status to several pro-democratic contenders.

Valery Karbalevich, of the Stratehiya think tank, earlier said that he expected six or eight people to be granted access to the ballot. More aspirants make it easier for the incumbent to win, he said. "This means that there is no common opposition challenger from pro-democratic forces, votes will be distributed among several contenders and there will be an illusion of a democratic election."