Polls open in Belarus presidential election

Belarus began voting in an election on Sunday (August 9) that poses the biggest challenge in years to incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko.

He's up against Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who entered the race after her husband, an anti-government blogger who intended to run, was jailed.

Having emerged from relative obscurity, her rallies have drawn some of the biggest crowds since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

However, 65-year-old Lukashenko is still almost certain to win a sixth consecutive term.

But he could face a new wave of protests amid anger over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy and his human rights record.

A former Soviet collective farm manager, Lukashenko has ruled since 1994, and was once dubbed 'Europe's last dictator' by Washington.

Human rights groups say more than 1,300 people have been detained in a widening crackdown.

Foreign observers have not judged an election to be free and fair in Belarus for a quarter of a century.