Minsk: Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was officially declared the winner Friday of a fourth term in office in a vote that both his challengers and international monitors say was tainted by fraud.
The Central Election Commission said Lukashenko won 79.6 percent of Sunday`s vote, while his nearest challenger, Andrei Sannikov, got 2.4 percent.
Representatives of the opposition candidates, who attended the commission`s session, rejected the official results. Sannikov`s representative, Yuri Khadyko, urged the election agency to void the vote because of fraud and call a new one. The commission ignored the demand.
International observers and Western governments have accused Lukashenko of using fraudulent counting and violence against opposition protesters to keep himself in power.
"A monstrous system of falsification has been created in this country, and you are all accomplices of that," Ales Lagvinets, representing another opposition candidate, Grigory Kostusev, told the commission.
Seven of the nine candidates challenging Lukashenko were arrested after the vote, some of them when club-wielding riot police tried to disperse 10,000 demonstrators protesting voting fraud.
Sannikov was among those beaten by the police. He and his wife, a prominent journalist, have both been jailed. Authorities tried to take Sannikov`s three-year-old son and put him into an orphanage but his grandmother went into hiding with the boy, the Vyasna rights center said Friday.
Lukashenko, 56, has run a repressive regime since 1994. Often called Europe`s last dictator, he allows no independent broadcast media, keeps 80 percent of the country`s industry under Soviet-style state control and suppresses opposition with police raids and pressure.
Russia has provided Belarus with cheap oil and gas, a policy that keeps the former Soviet republic of 10 million bordering Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic nations within its sphere of influence.