Not a single opposition politician has won entry into the Belarus parliament after a weekend vote that critics say was tainted by an improbably high turnout.
Central Elections Commission chairman Lidiya Yermoshina said Monday that a preliminary count showed a turnout of 74.3 percent and five parties securing slots in parliament. All five have backed the policy agenda of President Alexander Lukashenko.
Robust critics of the government had boycotted the election, leaving only pro-government and relatively marginal opposition parties with any prospect of winning seats. The main opposition parties boycotted the vote to protest the detention of political prisoners and opportunities for election fraud.
Yermoshina dismissed such concerns, saying that opposition forces needed to concentrate on improving their performance.
"Opposition parties that wish to enter parliament need to think about how they are going to work in future," she said.
The parliament in Belarus has long been considered a rubber stamp body for Lukashenko's policies. He has ruled the former Soviet nation since 1994 and Western observers have criticized all recent elections in Belarus as undemocratic.
Anatoly Lebedko, who leads the United Civic Party, one of the opposition parties to boycott the elections, described the electoral system as a "dead-end."
"The so-called parliament has been turned into a department of the presidential administration, which appoints deputies every four years that are in effect state officials," Lebedko said.
Lebedko said that information from independent observers in the regions pointed to a much lower turnout figure than that provided by election officials. Representation in the parliament depends on a 50 percent turnout threshold being passed.
"In many districts, the turnout was obviously less than 50 percent, which testifies to a lack of trust in the government," he said.
While dismissing the critical assessments, Yermoshina said only one of the 110 seats up for grabs was not allocated due to voter turnout in that district not passing the 50 percent level.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has fielded 330 observers for Sunday's vote, but two monitors from the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly were denied entry to Belarus without explanation. Its preliminary report on the election was due to be unveiled later Monday.
Lukashenko's landslide win in a 2010 presidential election triggered a mass street protest that was brutally suppressed.
"Elections in those states where they are boring and peaceful are a good thing for the people, not to mention for the government," Lukashenko said after casting his ballot, his 7-year-old son by his side. But he warned that the calm would not last if the opposition mounted a protest.
Opposition politicians have cautioned supporters to refrain from holding protest rallies.
The opposition had hoped to use this election to build support, but 33 of 35 candidates from the United Civil Party were barred from television, while the state-owned press refused to publish their election programs.
The other party that boycotted the vote was the Belarusian Popular Front.
The United States and the European Union have imposed economic and travel sanctions on the Belarusian government over its crackdown on opposition groups and independent news media.
Lukashenko has intensified repression of the opposition since the 2010 presidential election, which triggered a mass protest against election fraud that was dispersed by police. Some of the 700 people arrested at that protest are still in jail, including presidential candidate Nikolai Stankevich.