BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko should no longer be recognized as president from November when his term expires, the European Parliament said on Thursday, calling for European Union economic sanctions to be imposed on him.
In an overwhelming show of support for pro-democracy protesters in Belarus, the EU assembly voted 574 to 37, with 82 abstentions, to reject the official results of an Aug. 9 presidential election that the West says was rigged.
“The EU needs a new approach toward Belarus, which includes the termination of any cooperation with Lukashenko’s regime,” said Petras Austrevicius, a Lithuanian centrist EU lawmaker heading parliament’s efforts to pressure Belarus’ top officials.
While the European Parliament’s vote is not legally binding, it carries political weight and can influence how the EU invests in Belarus or grants financial support.
“Once the term of office for the incumbent authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko expires on 5 November, parliament will no longer recognize him as the president of the country,” the parliament said in a statement.
Mass protests since the August election have posed the biggest threat yet to Lukashenko and his attempts to extend his 26-year rule, although EU governments have yet to respond with sanctions.
Moscow’s backing has become crucial for Lukashenko’s survival as president and the Kremlin has accused the West of seeking a revolution in the country.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Angus MacSwan)