Opposition candidate protests rejection of request to annul vote

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MINSK, March 23 (RIA Novosti) - An opposition candidate in Belarus' March 19 presidential elections protested Thursday the rejection by election authorities of his request to invalidate the official results of the vote.

"Neither the Constitutional Court nor the Supreme Court has given its assessment of the results of the presidential elections in Belarus," Alexander Kozulin said after the Central Electoral Commission turned down his request, citing lack of evidence to prove alleged fraud.

Kozulin, who heads Belarus' Social Democratic Party, said he would not abandon the political struggle following the incumbent president's reelection but would continue working to form a popular government from the country's leading democratic movements and parties.

In Sunday's polls, Kozulin and two other candidates challenged President Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington. According to official results, the incumbent won a landslide victory with 83% of the vote; main opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich garnered 6.1%; Liberal Democrats Chairman Sergei Gaidukevich, widely regarded as a Lukashenko loyalist, finished third with 3.5%, and was followed by Kozulin with 2.3%.

The opposition disputed the official election returns on Monday, taking to the streets to call for a re-run.

The United States and the European Union also refused to accept the results of the election, which they said was neither free nor fair, and urged a repeat vote.

Russia and other ex-Soviet republics, however, said the elections had been held in accordance with international standards.

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