Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko headed for a landslide victory in today’s national election, an exit poll said, as riot police attacked opponents protesting what they claimed was massive vote rigging.
An exit poll by EcooM, a Minsk-based research company, showed 79.1 percent of votes for Lukashenko, Interfax reported. More than 84 percent of voters, almost 6 million people, had cast their ballots as of 6 p.m. local time, the Central Election Commission said on its website. Polling stations closed at 8 p.m., with preliminary results likely early tomorrow.
Opposition candidates, including former deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Sannikov, reported “mass” falsifications in the vote that is poised to give Lukashenko a fourth term in office he has held since 1994.
Lukashenko, 56, earlier today brushed off opponents’ accusations of vote-rigging, the Minsk-based Belta news service said, and warned the opposition against unsanctioned meetings.
Riot police blocked entry to Minsk’s central square to prevent opponents from staging a protest, Interfax reported. Presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev was beaten up by police and hospitalized, the Russian news service said.
Belarusian authorities turned the square into a skating rink, decorating it with a Christmas tree before the election.
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