Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko Re-Elected for Fifth Term

img
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko shake hands before watching the men's ice hockey World Championship final game between Finland and Russia at Minsk Arena in Minsk May 25, 2014. Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Reuters

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has won a fifth term in office with a landslide majority, The New York Times reported.

The authoritarian Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 21 years, won almost 83.5 percent of the vote on Sunday, according to the country's Central Election Commission.

After the results were announced, Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich, a prominent critic of Lukashenko, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize for literature last week, questioned the legitimacy of the electoral process.

"No one doubts that Lukashenko will win," said Alexievich on Saturday. "To paraphrase Stalin, it's unimportant who votes for whom; what matters is who counts the vote. I don't think we can expect any surprises."

Turnout in the election was 86.75 percent, according to the electoral commission.

Lukashenko has been repeatedly criticized for his government's human rights record,but has taken steps toward improving relations with the West in recent months. The European Union is reportedly ready to lift travel and financial sanctions on around 140 individuals in Belarus, including Lukashenko, in response to the Belarusian president's pardoning of six jailed political prisoners in August and the country's hosting of peace talks about the crisis in Ukraine in February.

Belarus has also shown signs of resisting Russian expansionism. In September, Russia announced plans to build an air base in Belarus, which Lukashenko's political opponents said would give Moscow a stronger foothold in the conflict with Ukraine. However, Lukashenko said last week that Belarus does not need a Russian air base.