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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lukashenko Backers Form New Party

MINSK, Belarus -- Backers of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, popular at home but accused in the West of human rights abuses, on Saturday formed a party to consolidate support for him before a parliamentary election next year.

Delegates in the ex-Soviet state heaped praise on Lukashenko at the founding congress of the Belaya Rus party -- a clear attempt to build a power base similar to the United Russia party backing President Vladimir Putin in neighboring Russia.

"We are true supporters of our president and his policies," Education Minister Alexander Radkov, unanimously elected leader of the new party, told the congress to wild applause.

"Each day, we feel just how much he serves as an example of how things should be accomplished, how we ought to love our country."

Belaya Rus' leaders promise to bolster the president's position in the parliament, where the opposition already holds no seats.

Western states accuse Lukashenko of jailing rivals, muzzling the media and rigging elections, including his re-election to a third term last year with 83 percent of the vote.

But his policies of high subsidies and benefits and state economic control are genuinely popular and pollsters say he has at least 50 percent support.