Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Opposition Expert Criticizes High Turnout in Early Voting

An opposition expert has accused the Belarusian authorities of securing high turnout in the early voting stage through "administrative levers."

Fifteen percent of all registered voters were reported to have cast their ballots in the first three days of the early voting stage in Belarus’ local elections, which began on April 20. The highest turnout, 19.2 percent, was reported in the Mahilyow region, while 12.2 percent cast ballots in Minsk.

In an interview with BelaPAN, Syarhey Alfer, an expert on electoral regulations, said that he had expected the authorities to compel voters to vote early in Minsk. "There is a big number of opposition candidates in Minsk, that's why a big number of people voting early is advantageous to the authorities," he stressed.

Government critics have repeatedly warned that high turnout in early voting could make vote rigging easier for the authorities.

Mr. Alfer noted that few people would head for the polls in the early voting stage on their own initiative. "The authorities have had to use administrative levers in full," he stressed.

The expert said that the local elections were not more transparent than the previous poll. "The local elections are being held in the same spirit as three years ago. I don't see any factors that would be evidence of a more transparent election," he said.