Belarus President Lukashenko admits fixing vote result downward

Belarus President Lukashenko admits fixing vote result downwardMinsk - Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko admitted he fixed the results of a March 2006 national vote, saying he fudged the numbers downward, according to a Thursday interview in Russia's Izvestia newspaper.

"At the time 93 per cent of the people voted for me, and so I gave the command for a result of around 80 per cent," the authoritarian leader told Izvestia.

Lukashenko cited a 90-per-cent "psychological barrier" in world opinion which, he said, if exceeded would have prevented international acceptance of the election result.

"Such a result (above 90 per cent in favour of Lukashenko) would not have been allowed," he said.

International observers at the time criticized the official number, 82 per cent support for Lukashenko, as the result of a flawed election with neither free nor fair voting.

Belarus in May became the focus of a European Union diplomatic initiative called "Eastern Partnership," an effort to promote democracy in Belarus by warming relations with the Lukashenko regime.

Lukashenko in the interview signaled his readiness for dialogue, saying, "One must speak with Brussels."

But he rejected past charges by European officials that his repressive government was keeping him in power, saying: "In Belarus we have enough to eat, and people have things to wear. I can't say that we don't have any problems or that we are all rich. But here one is able to live, and it is possible to earn very good money."

Lukashenko was scheduled to meet with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Thursday at Sochi, the Black Sea resort. (dpa)