Politicians dismiss Lukashenka\'s claim that only tiny minority support opposition

Opposition politicians have dismissed a statement made by Alyaksandr Lukashenka in his Friday interview with Russian journalists that only between 100,000 and 150,000 people in Belarus supported the opposition.

It has become clear since Thursday, the first day of the signature-collection stage in the presidential election campaign, that at least one in two people are ready to support an opposition candidate, presidential hopeful Mikalay Statkevich told BelaPAN.

"People say that they are ready to vote for anyone except Lukashenka," he said.

Nevertheless, the official election results may confirm Mr. Lukashenka's words, as he has already decided for himself what those results should be, Mr. Statkevich said.

Even conducted in an atmosphere of intimidation, independent opinion polls suggest that 30 percent of the population are ready to vote for an opposition candidate, Mr. Statkevich noted.

"Lukashenka has lost touch with reality and is unaware of his popularity ratings," Paval Sevyarynets, the campaign chief of Belarusian Christian Democracy's nominee Vital Rymashewski, said in an interview with BelaPAN.

At least half of all Belarusians criticize Mr. Lukashenka either openly or in private, he noted.

"No more than one-third of the voters are in favor of Lukashenka," Mr. Sevyarynets said. "The others would get rid of him at the first opportunity, but can't because of ballot-rigging."

When asked about Mr. Lukashenka's allegation that an opposition "courier" has recently been arrested while attempting to illegally bring $200,000 into Belarus, Mr. Statkevich said, "If such a courier had been caught, state television channels would be running report after report on this story."

Mr. Sevyarynets dismissed the allegation as a lie. "Lukashenka has been lying ever since he became president. His statements cannot be taken seriously."