Belarus security clampdown threat
MINSK, Belarus (CNN) -- Security services in Belarus are threatening to clamp down on any protests held after polling stations close on Sunday.
Opposition groups have called for a peaceful rally after the vote, which is widely predicted to return incumbent Alexander Lukashenko to power.
Lukashenko, dubbed 'Europe's last dictator' by his opponents, looks assured of victory but has been criticised by the West for his records on human rights and press freedom.
But domestically the 47-year-old former collective farm director is widely admired for his popular touch and maintaining salaries and pensions.
His main rival, trade unionist Vladimir Goncharik, has alleged undue pressure from the authorities on his campaign.
Goncharik supporters have called for a rally in the capital, Minsk, when voting finishes at 8 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) and although local authorities are playing down the threat, security chiefs will be on high alert.
Fyodor Kotov, spokesman for the KGB security service told Reuters news agency, his army of plain clothes agents was ready for anything.
"The leaders of the so-called opposition have completely shown their faces by calling on people to come to the square and to disorder," he said. "We are prepared for everything. We are ready for their attempts to seize power at any price... we don't expect anything of them. We hope that people will be sensible. The situation in the city is absolutely quiet and stable."
About 2,000 domestic observers have banned by Belarus's central electoral commission after it began to doubt their legitimacy, according to Hans-Georg Wiek, the chief envoy from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
To qualify as an observer, the domestic monitor must be a member of a non-governmental group registered with the government.
Wiek conceded that the OSCE is not in a position to determine the accuracy of the elections officials' findings concerning the observers at this time.
The elections will be monitored by a team of some 5,000 domestic observers. The country has approximately 7,000 voting precincts.
The OSCE is concerned the exclusion of the group of 2,000 observers may be a ploy to weaken the domestic observers' abilities to carry out a parallel vote count for the election results, and would be the most recent ploy to rig Sunday's vote.
Wiek said incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko is using police to intimidate political opponents and manipulating the media, which is under the exclusive control of the state.
The OSCE also takes issue with the absence of opposition representatives among election officials.
Lukashenko has been accused of using a presidential death squad to squash political opponents. The U.S. State Department has called the allegations of two such accusers "detailed and credible." Lukashenko told CNN the allegations are "dirt and lies."
Meanwhile, the president's main competitor in the elections, opposition candidate Vladimir Goncharik, said the president is rigging the vote. Goncharik said he would not recognise the results of the elections unless he wins.
Shadow over Belarus poll
September 7, 2001
Lukashenko claims parliamentary poll win
October 16, 2000
Belarus National Assembly
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