By Stefan J. Bos
Frustrated crowds clashed with riot police overnight in Belarus's capital Minsk and other cities. They are furious that authorities claim the longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected in Sunday's presidential poll.
Police responded with stun grenades as well as rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon. A police van drove into a crowd of protestors. And a human rights group said one protester died and about 120 others were arrested.
Dozens of people are believed to have been injured. Authorities denied that a person was killed in the police crackdown
The massive protests are an expression of frustration with the country's deteriorating economy and years of political repression. Demonstrators are also angry at what they view as the authoritarian incumbent's irresponsible brushoff of the coronavirus threat. President Lukashenko has called the pandemic "a psychosis" and urged his nation to drink more vodka.
On Sunday, President Lukashenko tried to appear confident as he cast his ballot for a sixth term. Authorities later claimed the 65-year-old head-of-state had won the election with 80 percent of the vote. But there were questions about the outcome. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, wasn't invited to monitor the elections.
Authorities claimed Lukashenko's primary opposition challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, received only 9.9 percent of the vote. That appeared in contrast with the large crowds who welcomed the 37-year-old former English teacher at her rallies.
Tsikhanouskaya cast her ballot on Sunday in front of many cameras and supporters. And she made clear that she would not accept the results.
It comes despite threats against her that she says forced her to send her two small children to an unidentified European nation.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya had been campaigning on behalf of her husband, a popular blogger. Syarhei Tsikhanousky was jailed on what he called trumped-up charges of assailing a police officer and organizing mass riots.
The opposition has vowed more protests and demands a recount of ballots.