MINSK, Belarus (AP) — The parliament of Belarus on Friday set Aug. 9 as the date for the country’s next presidential election.
President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million with an iron fist since 1994, announced last year that he is running for another term. He has vowed, however, not to run the country forever.
“I promise, I won’t be carried to kingdom come straight from the presidential chair,” Belarus’ leader said previously during a televised press conference.
The U.S. and the European Union have regularly criticized Belarusian authorities for flawed elections and stifling the opposition. Last year’s parliamentary election excluded the opposition, with all 110 parliament seats going to former government functionaries, diplomats and members of pro-government parties.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said at the time that “fundamental freedoms were disregarded and the integrity of the election process was not adequately safeguarded.”
If the 65-year-old Lukashenko wins the presidential election, it will be his sixth consecutive term in office.