24 Sep 2012

Polls open in Belarus election amid boycott

9:09 am on 24 September 2012

Polls have opened in the former Soviet state of Belarus for a parliamentary election being boycotted by the two main opposition parties.

Opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko have urged voters to shun the polls, telling them to instead pick mushrooms or cook beetroot soup, the BBC reports.

The vote comes two years after President Lukashenko won a landslide presidential election.

Since then, Belarus authorities have brutally suppressed the opposition.

President Lukashenko is often referred to as Europe's last dictator and has ruled Belarus since 1994.

Eleven political prisoners are currently in jail and Amnesty International says authorities have also detained other opposition activists ahead of the election.

The two strongest opposition parties - United Civic and the BPF - pulled out of the race about a week ago.

Two other opposition parties - Just World and the Belarusian Social Democratic Party - are still in the running and members of unregistered opposition movements, such as the Tell the Truth campaign, are listed as unaffiliated candidates.