BELARUS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.jpg
Members of a local electoral commission empty a ballot box to count the ballots at the end of parliamentary elections in Minsk, Belarus, 11 September 2016.
Photograph: EPA/TATYANA ZENKOVICH

 Belarus has elected an opposition politician to its lower house of parliament for the first time in a decade, according to preliminary results released Monday.

"Anna Konopatskaya of the United Civic Party won in a district of Minsk," the head of the Central Election Commission, Lidia Yermoshina, said in comments carried by the TASS news agency.

The liberal-conservative United Civic Party opposes the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for more than two decades.

Nearly three-fourths of the registered voters in the former Soviet republic cast their ballots in Sunday's parliamentary elections. The turnout in the capital, Minsk, was the lowest, near 60 per cent.

Yermoshina explained that such a turnout has been usual for Minsk, where "the residents are pampered."

"There is no other reason for the residents of Minsk to ignore the elections," she said in a statement on the commission's website.

The commission noted that it took efforts to draw in voters, saying in a separate statement that, during the elections, "there were almost 430 buffets at polling stations in Minsk."

Belarus, which the United States has famously labelled as Europe's last dictatorship, has been praised as more democratic in recent years. The European Union removed sanctions against Lukashenko last year in support of the country's course.

However, Sunday's elections are expected to grant pro-regime candidates a vast majority of the 110 seats in the country's lower house of parliament.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said it had 400 monitors observe Sunday's elections. It was scheduled on Monday to announce its assessment of how the elections were conducted.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Eurasian bloc led by China, said it recorded no instances of ballot stuffing or one person voting multiple times. It called the elections "exemplary," according to a statement on the Belarusian commission's website.

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