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An opposition figure has been elected to the Belarusian parliament for the first time in a decade, however, the fact does not mean major changes in the country ruled by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, says Lithuanian political scientist Vytis Jurkonis.
Alexander Lukashenko
Alexander Lukashenko
© AFP/Scanpix

"I'm afraid many will see this as a sign of changes in Belarus, however, this will only be self-deceit. The fact that election of a Belarusian opposition figure was allowed does not mean that the political system has changed," Jurkonis, a lecturer at the Vilnius University's International Relations and Political Science Institute and representative of the US non-governmental organization Freedom House, told BNS on Monday.

Anna Kanopatskaya, a member of the opposition United Civic Party, won a mandate in the 110-seat Belarusian parliament during the Sunday's elections.

In Jurkonis' words, the opposition was more visible during the election – critics of the administration no longer boycotted the election and were allowed to state their opinion during television broadcasts, however, the election was not fair.

He noted that more than 30 percent of the electorate voted early, which facilitates the highest degree of fraud.

The role of the parliament is nominal in Belarus, with all key decisions made by the president, said Jurkonis.

Main opposition parties did not participate in the last parliamentary elections in 2012, which international observers dismissed not free and not fair.

Following the December 2010 presidential race, which opponents said were unfair and which secured a fourth term for Lukashenko, the president took strong measures against the opposition and free press.

His later move to imprison opponents led to his international isolation and Western sanctions against him.

The majority of the sanctions were lifted last year after Lukashenko released political prisoners.

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