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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

West Calls New Belarussian Election Laws Weak

MINSK, Belarus -- The Belarussian lower house of parliament passed a new election code Monday but Western diplomats said it contained too few improvements to ensure credible elections later this year.

They said the new law was more democratic than its predecessor but lacked key elements suggested by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to make it more acceptable.

"This is another dead end," one Western diplomat said of the latest development in the former Soviet state.

Deputies voted unanimously for the bill, which the head of the chamber's commission for constitutional issues, Anatoly Krasutsky, said included most of the OSCE's suggestions.

But the diplomat said it failed to include key OSCE proposals, including some proportional voting by party lists to balance first-past-the-post constituency voting, rebalancing the powers of parliament and president, and including opposition representatives on regional election commissions.

"Moreover, there is no progress in allowing the opposition access to the media or in democratizing the social atmosphere, which are necessary elements of free elections," he added.

The OSCE hopes parliamentary elections acceptable to all political groups will help end a political deadlock in Belarus.

Many members of the opposition were members of the parliament that President Alexander Lukashenko dismissed in 1996 after a referendum. Many Western governments still recognise the dissolved body and not its successor.