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MINSK: Longtime Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko won Sunday's presidential election with 79.7 percent of the vote, according to the official exit poll, after a tense campaign that saw a woman opposition candidate posing a historic challenge. Main opposition challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya came second with 6.8 percent, according to the poll for state broadcaster MIR.

Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old English teacher by training and stay-at-home mother, mounted a surprise opposition campaign against Lukashenko after her husband, a popular blogger, was jailed and barred from running.

Tens of thousands of supporters attended her rallies and many voters wore the opposition's trademark white bracelets at polling stations on Sunday. Huge queues had formed outside polling stations in Minsk and other cities before voting ended, after Tikhanovskaya urged her supporters to vote late, to give the authorities less opportunity to falsify the results.

Central Election Commission chief Lidia Yermoshina, who had earlier denounced the queues as an "organised provocation", said most polling stations had closed at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) as planned but that voting would be extended at some to allow waiting voters to cast their ballots.

"I hope that the vote will also end without any problems" at these stations, she said on public television. The atmosphere in the capital Minsk was tense, with police and special forces on the streets and many residents saying it was impossible to connect to the internet.

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