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With a reported 83.5 percent of the vote, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko won his fifth term in office on Sunday.
In 2005, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Belarus was "Europe's last dictatorship," as it shut down political dissent and had a record of human rights violations, Reuters reports. Western observers have said previous elections were unfair, and after mass protests broke out following Lukashenko's re-election in 2010, leading opposition figures were imprisoned. Diplomatic sources said Friday that if the government does not crack down on dissent after the vote, the European Union will lift sanctions on the country and Lukashenko for four months.
While casting his ballot on Sunday, Lukashenko said: "We have carried out everything the West wanted on the eve of the elections. If there is a desire in the West to improve our relations, nobody and nothing can prevent that. The ball is now firmly in the West's court." There were three other candidates on the ballot, but they were not seen as formidable challengers. "Lukashenko and his system is a dead-end," opposition leader Anatoly Ledbedko said Saturday during an anti-government rally. "There is no choice, but there is the choice not to be a sheep."
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