Updated at 11:25,18-04-2018

Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus wins fifth term as president

By ANDREW E. KRAMER, The New York Times

Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the authoritarian president of Belarus, who suffered the indignity last week of seeing one of his sharpest critics win the Nobel Prize in Literature, won a prize of his own on Sunday: the presidency of Belarus, though that outcome had never been in doubt.

Mr. Lukashenko, a former collective farm director who has led Belarus for 21 years, got nearly 83.5 percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission reported late Sunday, trouncing three token competitors and winning a fifth term.

Analysts of the countrys political system said the results, like those of many elections in the old Soviet Union, had been determined long before voters marked their ballots.

The election, in fact, would not have drawn much attention but for the announcement on Thursday that Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarussian journalist and nonfiction writer, had won the Nobel Prize. She has long been a prominent critic of Soviet and post-Soviet governments, including the one in Belarus.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin on Saturday, Ms. Alexievich, who has spent periods of her life in exile, described Sundays election as a rigged contest that Mr. Lukashenko was sure to win, as always.

No one doubts that Lukashenko will win, she said. To paraphrase Stalin, its unimportant who votes for whom; what matters is who counts the vote. I dont think we can expect any surprises.

Ms. Alexievich, who was awarded the Nobel for her sweeping nonfiction works about events like the Soviet-Afghan war and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, also described Russia as a place where one can no longer speak of democracy and where liberal is a dirty word.

In fact, Belarus has been undergoing one of its periodic thaws in recent months, leading to new openness, at least by Belarussian standards. Mr. Lukashenko released political prisoners before the election and has appealed to the European Union to lift some economic sanctions.

Mr. Lukashenko also announced his opposition to a request by the Russian Defense Ministry to establish an air base in Belarus, which would extend Russias military reach westward.

On Sunday, he reiterated his opposition but said he would be willing to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to discuss the request.

Although citizens are not required to vote, the government offers free doughnuts at polling stations to draw crowds. About 30 percent of registered voters cast ballots in early absentee voting, a practice often criticized by election observers for offering opportunities for fraud. The election commission said overall turnout was more than 87 percent.

Mr. Lukashenko won a slightly greater share of the tally than in 2010, when he garnered about 79 percent. The election commission said Monday that about 6 percent of Belarussian voters rejected all the candidates.

The largest observer mission monitoring the vote, with 397 members, arrived from an organization of former Soviet states; its observers invariably approve one anothers elections.