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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Veshnyakov Sells Belarus' People Short

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It is hard to be too upset about President Alexander Lukashenko's election victory, since he seems to be what most Belarussians want.

Most agree that he would have won, possibly in the first round, even if the election had been free and fair.

A protest in Minsk on Monday evening brought out only hundreds -- not thousands or tens of thousands -- of people to support the opposition.

What is upsetting, however, is how Russian politicians and especially the head of the Russian Central Election Commission have responded.

President Vladimir Putin congratulated Lukashenko in bureaucratic tones, sparing any warmth, but Mikhail Gorbachev felt compelled to defend both Lukashenko, as "a person who thinks about the people and the country," and the fairness of his election.

But it is CEC chairman Alexander Veshnyakov's statements that are mind-boggling. He said "it is impossible to say that the election campaign in Minsk did not meet international standards, taking into account the standards that exist today." He called these standards "unclear" and "morally outdated."

Is it "morally outdated" for the opposition to be able to campaign free of intimidation, or for an independent press to cover the candidates without censorship?

And what does Veshnyakov's statement say to the OSCE, which flat out called the Belarussian elections undemocratic and unfair? The OSCE, of which Russia is a member, was more than kind to Russia in assessing Putin's first-round win in the 2000 presidential election.

Despite pointing out many concerns about how that campaign was conducted, the OSCE's final report concluded that its concerns "reflect the complexity of the election environment in the Russian Federation and are symptomatic of an established democracy incomplete in its transition." The report went on to say that most voting violations on election day were "minor" and "episodic" and did not alter the outcome.

The OSCE's Hrair Balian, the same man who judged Russia's elections, said Monday that Belarus' elections were "not democratic." He said the OSCE was particularly concerned about the early voting system, under which 15 percent of eligible voters, or just under a fifth of all who voted, cast their votes earlier in the week. These ballots were not properly monitored and were open to fraud.

But what does Veshnyakov say? He says that early elections are part of the Belarussian "national character."

It's sad that a high-placed official in Russia, which considers itself so close to the people of Belarus, should think so little of them.