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Alexander Lukashenko's Biography

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Born in 1954, Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, is sometimes referred to as Europe's last dictator. In March 2006, Lukashenko won a third term in power, with 82.6 per cent of the vote - however Western observers supported the claims of Alexander Milinkevich, the main opposition candidate, that the election result was fundamentally flawed and illegal.

According to The Washington Times in August 2006: "The U.S. Embassy in Belarus ... has demanded the release of an opposition presidential candidate and four election observers ... [protesting] over the sentencing of Aleksandr Kozulin, who challenged President Alexander Lukashenko in the March election, and Nikolai Astreiko, Timofei Dranchuk, Enira Bronitskaya and Alexander Shalaiko of the Partnership, a nongovernmental organization that attempted to monitor the vote."

Lukashenko is a former prison guard and state farm director. He helped form an independent Belarus after the Soviet Union collapsed and came to power in 1994 elections that were generally regarded as fair. He had been chairman of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee. He was reelected in 2001 in a presidential election that was widely condemned as undemocratic.

In 2003, Lukashenko told Belarusian radio: "An authoritarian ruling style is characteristic of me, and I have always admitted it. Why? We could spend hours talking about this. You need to control the country and the main thing is not to ruin people's lives." Insulting the president can be punished by five years in jail.

The Belarussians call him batka, or Little Father. Anatol Lyabedzka, a member of the dissolved parliament, once said: "He is a brilliant politician with an instinctive understanding of politics. But he is cruel, cunning and merciless. And he is mad about power."

Lukashenko is keen on sport, in particular, ice hockey.

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