Human Rights Center "Viasna":: Parliamentary Elections: Candidates’ Nomination and Registration. Analysis and Preliminary Conclusions
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Election of the Deputies of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus
Analysis and preliminary conclusions on the stage of candidates’ nomination and registration
Public and Political Situation
Since the announcement of the parliamentary election the public and political situation has deteriorated.
First of all, this is connected to the fact that the executive authorities resist the election activity of political parties, non-governmental organizations, and citizens of the country. However, the main reason for increase of the pressure on the citizens and the structures of the civic society was the national referendum. The referendum, announced by A. Lukashenka on September 7, 2004, is about changes to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and possibility for Lukashenka to run for the third term in the presidential election 2006.
The authorities continued criminal and administrative prosecution of activists of pro-democratic parties in opposition, independent trade unions, NGOs, informal youth groups, and the entrepreneurs’ movement.
On September 7, 2004 Valery Levanewski, head of the National Strike Committee of Entrepreneurs, and his deputy Alexander Vasilyew received sentences under Article 368 part 2 of the Criminal Code (insult of the President of the Republic of Belarus, connected with accusation of grave offence). Leninski court of Hrodna sentenced both activists to 2 years of imprisonment in a general-regime prison.
Mikhail Marynich, public and political figure, former Minister of foreign economic affairs, and Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to Latvia, Estonia, and Finland continues to be kept in KGB detention center. The investigation agencies continue to extend his detention term and press new charges against Marynich.
The police have extensively used administrative detentions and arrests of mass action participants. For example, on September 1 the police broke up a picket organized by Belarusian Students Association and students of the closed down Belarusian Humanities Lyceum. There were a number of detentions of Zubr and Young Front activists. On the day when the referendum was announced the police detained Zmitser Dashkevich on Kastrychnitski Square. Zmitser Dashkevich is a member of Young Belarus coalition, nominated to run in Minsk Kupalawski district. He was sentenced to 10 days of jail for public protesting against the referendum.
Representatives of executive authorities have abruptly intensified the pressure on candidates nominated by pro-democratic political parties, independent candidates, members of their initiative groups, and voters who had put their signatures in support of their nomination.
All over the country factory and office workers of state-run enterprises were massively converted to contracts. To achieve that, the Council of Ministers issued a special order to the heads of the Ministries and the executive “vertical”. The order determined personal responsibility for failing to execute the “President’s instruction”. Overall introduction of the contract system in the run-up to the election and the referendum paves the way to pressure on employees, mass violation of voters’ rights, compulsion during early voting, and other kinds of manipulation and fraud.
The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus continued to oppress political parties who had concluded an agreement about joint actions within the frames of Civic Initiative “People’s Coalition 5+”. On July 1 the Justice Ministry issued warnings to four political parties: BPF, UCP, BSDH, and PCB. They were warned for alleged organization of the unauthorized Chain of Concerned Readers in support of Narodnaya Volya newspaper which took place on June 10. At the same time these four parties received letters from the Ministry which demanded to “legally formalize (institutionalize) the activity of the People’s Coalition 5+”, because “according to Explanatory Dictionary of Russian Language by S.I. Ozhegov and N.Yu. Shvedava, a coalition is an association, a union (of states, parties) in order to achieve a common goal”. The Belarusian legislation, read the Ministry’s letter, allows creating unions (associations) of parties, non-governmental organizations, and other legal entities; the activity of unregistered unions (associations) is prohibited. In the same letter the Ministry suggested the parties should suspend their participation in the unregistered “formation” until the issue of its registration was solved. Otherwise, the Ministry warned, it will consider participation in the above-mentioned association as a “grave violation of the law on political parties”.
All four parties appealed the decision in the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus. On August 23-31 the Supreme Court heard the complaint of Belarusian Popular Front which asked to reverse the warning. On August 25-26 the court held similar proceedings on the complaint of the United Civic Party. Similar complaints of Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada and Party of Communists of Belarus were heard by the Supreme Court on August 27 and August 31- September 7, respectively. Despite the arguments of political parties’ representatives, the Supreme Court did not satisfy their complaints and let the warnings of the Justice Ministry stand.
On September 2, the Ministry of Justice demanded from political parties through BELTA state information agency to immediately stop activities on behalf of Coalition Five Plus or to register the coalition. The Ministry urged UCP and BPF to follow the Law “On Mass Events”. The Ministry warned the political parties, if they ignore the instructions of the registering agency and repeatedly violate the law during a year, it will “take appropriate measures to maintain order and democratic lawfulness, according to Art 35 of the Law on Political Parties”.
All over the country the regional Justice departments started to check organizational structures of pro-democratic parties: United Civic Party, Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada), Belarusian Popular Front, etc. For example, on September 21 the authorities started an unscheduled check-up of all registered BPF structures. The same very day the BPF Board received a letter from Justice Minister V. R. Halavanaw (Golovanov) which said that “in connection with the office needs” the party is suggested to present all documents regarding nomination of candidates by the party congress in a 3-days term. This was the second time the Ministry required the same documents after the party congress. That’s why the party considers such massive check-ups as a direct pressure”.
In the effort to destroy the independent structures of the civic society the authorities continued to attack non-governmental organizations: The Justice Ministry filed a liquidation suit against the leading human rights organization – Belarusian Helsinki Committee – to the Supreme Court. The news about the beginning of liquidation proceedings was spread by BELTA state information agency on September 16. According to the official information, the reason for closure of BHC was “systematic and grave violations of the legislation”, and the fact that on September 14 BHC addressed the Belarusian citizens “with the call to ignore the President’s edict, adopted according to the Constitution, about the national referendum, and urged the government, the Central Election Commission, and the local executive bodies not to observe the country’s legislation”. In the opinion of the Justice Ministry, with these actions BHC violated Art 5, 52, 53 of the Constitution, and Art 4, 5 of Law on Non-Governmental Organizations. Just prior to that the Belarusian Helsinki Committee used its constitutional right and addressed the Supreme Court. BHC demanded to recognize the president’s actions of appointing the referendum illegal and recognize President’s edict # 431 about the referendum inconsistent with the Constitution and other laws of the country. This has become the real ground for the liquidation suit against BHC.
The authorities continued to exert pressure on independent mass media. The Information Ministry suspended 6 independent editions right before the referendum was announced. We have also observed cases of state-run shops refusing to sell the registered independent newspapers. Chief editor of Birzha Informatsyi newspaper (Hrodna) Alena Rawbetskaya was fined 70 basic values (around 630 USD) for coverage of the referendum campaign. She was charged under Art 172 part 10 of the Code of Administrative Offences (spreading information which defames the honor and dignity of the President of the Republic of Belarus).
At the same time, the official mass media, including electronic ones, have launched a vigorous propaganda campaign with the purpose to discredit the political opponents of the regime.
At the same time distributors of alternative information (through unregistered editions, leaflets, and other kinds of printed materials) were often detained and held accountable under the Code of Administrative Offences.
We are especially concerned about concealment of information on the election process and its secrecy. According to the law, the local official newspapers are to publish lists of precinct election commissions and their personal membership. In many localities these newspaper issues were printed in extremely low circulation, did not get to the subscribers, and were impossible to find in the libraries.
This way, the authorities failed to build the necessary conditions for creation of the atmosphere of confidence in the society, continued to oppress political opponents, and created possibilities for rigging the results of the election and the referendum.
Decree about Members of Central Election Commission with Advisory Vote
On September 3, 2004 the President issued Decree # 7 “About Belarus’ Central Commission for Elections and National Referendums members with advisory vote during elections to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus”.
According to the Decree, political parties which nominated their candidates to parliament, get the right to send one representative with advisory vote to the Central Election Commission. The goal of the Decree was stated as “ensuring wider participation of political parties in the election campaign”.
According to clause 2.4 of the Decree, a CEC member with an advisory vote has the right:
• To put forward proposals to the agenda of CEC sessions on the issues which fall within CEC jurisdiction and demand voting on these issues;
• To speak on CEC sessions;
• To ask the participants of CEC session questions within the agenda and receive answers.
According to clause 2.5 of the Decree, a CEC member with an advisory vote does not have the right:
• To take part in the check-ups carried out by the Central Election Commission, and to vote on the issues;
• To give explanations and instructions, and to give statements on behalf of the Central Election Commission.
According to clause 2.6 of the Decree, the powers of a CEC member with an advisory vote may be discontinued on the grounds of: his application, decision of the ruling body of a political party, decision of CEC if all candidates nominated by a party quit the race, and if CEC members with advisory vote commit actions which discredit the Central Election Commission or hinder its work.
This way, the powers of CEC members with advisory vote are quite limited. We should especially point out that they don’t have the right to participate in check-ups carried out by the Central Election Commission. Meanwhile, participation in such check-ups is especially important if the matter is in revealed grave violations of the election legislation, conflicting reports of precinct and district election commissions, vote re-counting, and the issue of recognizing the election valid or invalid. CEC members with advisory vote also do not have the right to look through the documents received by CEC, including the reports on results of check-ups. This deprives the representatives of political parties of the access to information which can be very significant in consideration of candidates’ complaints and questions about possible manipulation during the election and vote counting, etc. At the same time, the wording of the Decree’s clause 2.6 allows for broad interpretation and leaves possibilities for ungrounded termination of the powers of a CEC member with advisory vote.
Nomination and Registration of Candidates
According to the Schedule approved by the Central Election Commission, candidates’ nomination began 70 days before and ended 40 days before the Election Day (i.e. from August 8 to September 6 inclusive). No later than September 6 (inclusive) the political parties, working collectives, and initiative groups submitted application documents for registration to district election commissions. In the course of 10 days, from September 7th to 16th inclusive, district election commissions checked the application documents against the requirements of the Election Code and registered candidates.
The procedure of nomination and registration of candidates to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly is regulated by the Election Code and Rulings of the Central Election Commission.
According to the Election Code, candidates may be nominated by citizens through signature collection, or by political parties or working collectives.
Out of 692 persons nominated, 359 (51.88%) were registered, and 312 (45.09%) – denied registration. Some candidates left the race on their own.
1. Nomination of candidates through voters’ signature collection
Initiative groups started to collect signatures from the moment they were registered. The procedures of signature collection, affirmation of signatures by initiative group members, and examination of their validity are regulated by Art 61 parts 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and Art 67 of the Election Code.
On 26 August 2004 the Central Election Commission adopted Ruling # 63 “Explanation of application of the provision of the Election Code about indication of a voter’s passport number in a signature sheet”. According to the Ruling, only passports of citizens of the Republic of Belarus of 1996 standard may be indicated in the appropriate column of the signature sheet. According to the Ruling, if a voter indicated a passport of the USSR citizen of 1974 standard or a passport of the Republic of Belarus citizen of 1993 standard, his/her signature is recognized invalid.
It should be pointed out that the Council of Ministers issued similar Ruling # 1492 (“Limitation of validity period of passports of the USSR citizens of 1974 standard and passports of the Republic of Belarus citizens of 1993 standard”) as early as on October 29, 2002. In conjunction with this the Central Election Commission should have issued its Ruling not in the end of the signature collection period, but before this election stage began. Explanation of signature sheets completion coming so late could lead to numerous mistakes made by initiative groups during signature collection.
The procedure of checking the validity of the application documents for a candidate’s registration and authenticity of collected signatures is regulated by the Election Code and by Methodical Recommendations for the work of district election commissions, developed by CEC.
According to Art 61 parts 12, 14, 15, and Art 67 part 2 of the Election Code, the following types of signatures shall be recognized invalid:
• Fictitious signatures (signatures made on behalf of non-existent persons which are posed as existent);
• Signatures made by one person on behalf of different persons;
• Signatures of individuals who do not have a voting right;
• Signatures of voters whose data in a signature sheet do not represent the facts;
• Signatures of voters, collected before the scheduled term of candidates’ nomination;
• Signatures of voters, if some data required by the Election Code are missing;
• Signatures of voters who do not live in one settlement (in cities with administrative division: signatures of voters who do not live in one administrative district);
• Signatures of voters who do not live on the territory of the corresponding election district;
• Signatures of voters if their data are entered in a signature sheet not by hand or with a pencil;
• Signatures of voters who did not put the date of signature with their own hand;
• Signatures of all voters in a signature sheet if they are collected by a person who is not an initiative group member;
• Signatures of all voters in a signature sheet if it is not signed by the signature collector or if it is signed by another member of initiative group who did not collect these signatures;
• Signatures of all voters in a signature sheet if it is not certified by a stamp of the local executive and administrative body on the territory of which the signatures were collected;
• Signatures of voters collected with violation of requirements of Art 61 part 8 of the Election Code (participation of organization’s administration in signature collection, as well as compulsion in the process of signature collection, and rewarding voters for putting their signatures).
If several signatures of the same voter in support of the same candidate are identified, only one signature is valid, other signatures are invalidated.
The list of grounds which lead to signature invalidation is exhaustive. It is inadmissible to invalidate voters’ signatures for other reasons.
District election commission is to make a formal note on the results of signature check-up. One can find a model form of a formal note in the Methodical Recommendations for the work of district commissions, approved by CEC.
According to Art 67 of the Election Code, the authenticity of a signature shall be checked by district election commissions. Commissions shall check no less than 20% of signatures necessary for registration of a candidate. If the number of invalid signatures among the examined ones will be over 15%, the commission is to check the additional 15% of signatures needed for a candidate’s registration. If the summarized number of invalid signatures found during the check-up is more than 15% of the total number of the examined signatures in signature sheets, the check-up is stopped. Thus, it’s enough to find only 5% of invalid signatures in candidate’s signature sheets.
It should be stressed that observers do not have the right to observe the procedure of signature examination. They have only the right to observe the sessions of district commissions and can learn only about the results of the check-ups. This circumstance, as well as factual absence of political parties’ representatives in the district election commissions, creates enough possibilities for manipulation. According to our data, confirmed by candidates, while checking authenticity of signatures collected by teams of some candidates, the commissions check all 100% of the submitted signatures. With such system it is substantially easier to find 5 % of invalid signatures.
According to Art 66 part 5 of the Election Code, voters who nominated a candidate by signature collection, have the right to withdraw their signatures before the signature sheets are submitted to the district election commission. They can withdraw their signatures by applying to the district commission. Signatures of such voters are not checked and not taken into account. We should point out that this provision of the Election Code was actively used by representatives of local executive authorities as one of the main tools of votes’ manipulation. There were numerous cases when voters who had put their signatures in support of independent candidates or candidates from pro-democratic political parties were subjected to pressure from the local executive authorities. Voters were forced to withdraw their signatures. In most cases, such forced signature withdrawals have become the reason for non-registration of candidates.
For example, when the district commission of Babruisk-Leninski district # 63 denied registration to Tatsiana Shved, she was shown applications of 48 people who withdrew their signatures.
Tadeusz Gavin was not registered a candidate in Hrodna rural district # 54 for allegedly more than 15 % of invalid signatures revealed on the ground of citizens’ applications. In this case, members of election commission, accompanied by a district police officer and the head of the rural district Council, visited voters and forced them to write applications for withdrawal of their signatures or made voters sign blank forms which were later filled with a standard text of withdrawal application.
Mikalai Towstsik, candidate in Babruisk rural district # 65 found himself in a similar situation. Some withdrawal statements were simply typed and printed out on blank papers with voters’ signatures which had been previously collected from voters.
At the same time, we registered cases of enterprise administration organizing signature collection from their direct subordinates during working hours. This is a grave violation of the election legislation and a glaring example of administrative resource usage.
For example, member of Vasil Khrol’s initiative group (Hlybokaye election district # 22) Lilia Latanowskaya, head of a local enterprise department, collected signatures from her subordinates during working hours. Moreover, the voters’ data, including passport numbers, were entered into the signature sheets in advance. When a complaint about her actions had been filed, Latanowskaya left the initiative group and her signature sheets were not submitted to the district commission.
On August 16 workers of Rechytsa amethyst plant were allowed to begin their work only after they had put a signature in support of HR deputy director N. V. Siardziuk. All employees were warned in advance about the need to bring their passports along.
Another tendency observed during signature examination by district election commission is appearance of voters’ statements that they did not put the date of signature with their own hand. A characteristic example of this tendency is the situation of Uladzimir Hancharyk. His initiative group collected 5 800 signatures. 1 091 signatures were submitted to commission of Uruchcha election district # 109. The commission used the above-mentioned ground to invalidate 59 signatures. The same very day members of Hancharyk’s initiative group visited 58 out of 59 voters indicated in the commission’s statement, and they all confirmed the fact that they had put signatures and signature dates with their own hand. The written statements of confirmation and the candidate’s complaint were submitted to the Central Election Commission. However, it still denied registration to the candidate.
It should be pointed out the Central Election Commission rarely satisfied complaints about non-registration if it was connected with invalid signatures (in a number of cases, absolutely groundlessly). For example, CEC did not satisfy complaint of BPF candidate Stanislaw Sudnik (Lida election district #57). The district election commission denied registration to Mr. Sudnik because more than 15% of signatures in his support were recognized invalid. At the same time the commission recognized the whole signature sheet invalid because one of the voters lived in a different village than other voters. Thus, by invalidating the whole signature sheet the commission violated Art 61 part 14 of the Election Code which says that only the signature of the voter who lives in a different settlement shall be invalidated. This is not the ground to invalidate all signatures in a signature sheet. Despite that, the Central Election Commission did not satisfy Sudnik’s complaint and left the district commission’s decision unaltered.
It is indicative that Vitebsk region and Minsk city district commissions applied to the corresponding departments of internal affairs for expert examination of handwriting in signatures and dates of signatures. Police structures are an element of state power and it is difficult to say that the results of such expert examination are unbiased.
558 initiative groups were created and started to collect signatures. However, according to the Central Election Commission, only 71 candidates are registered through signature collection (19 candidates in Brest region, 18 – in Vitebsk region, 3 – in Homel region, 7 – in Hrodna region, 12 – in Minsk region, 7 – in Mahilow region, and 5 – in Minsk city). Such a big gap in numbers has several reasons: firstly, the majority of political party members, who collected signatures in their support, were finally nominated from a political party; secondly, the big share of registration denials falls on this way of nomination because it is difficult and practically impossible to control the accuracy of the signature check-up results.
The stage of candidates’ nomination and signature collection was characterized by heavy pressure from the executive authorities and election commissions on candidates, members of their initiative groups, as well as voters who signed in support of these candidates.
2. Nomination of candidates by political parties
The Election Code of the Republic of Belarus (Art 60 part 3) says that political parties registered by the Ministry of Justice no later than 6 months before the election is announced have the right to nominate candidates. According to Art 62 of the Election Code, candidates for the Chamber of Representatives shall be nominated by superior national body of a political party as long as in the corresponding district there is a party organization registered in accordance with the established procedure which nominates the candidate.
A political party has the right to nominate only one candidate from among the party members in each of the election districts.
On July 15, 2004 the Central Election Commission passed Ruling # 19 “Explanation of application of Art 62 part 1 of the Election Code, which describes nomination of candidates for the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the 3rd convocation by political parties”. According to clause 1 of the Ruling, having a political party organization registered in accordance with the established procedure means that a party organizational structure was created in compliance with the requirements of the Belarusian legislation and registered in a Justice department of a regional (or Minsk city) executive committee.
Under clause 2 of the Ruling, superior national governing body of a political party has the right to nominate a candidate for the Chamber of Representatives only in districts where an organizational structure has a legal address.
The period of candidates’ nomination was characterized by mass check-ups of the regional structures of political parties by regional Justice Departments. The controllers were especially interested in legal addresses of party structures because that could impact on candidates’ nomination in a certain district. As the result of the check-ups, a number of organizational structures of pro-democratic political parties was liquidated: United Civic Party lost over 10 local organizations, BPF Party – 2, Party of Communists of Belarus – 8 (among that, in Ushachy district the authorities liquidated 5 primary and 1 district party structure), Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada) – 10 organizational structures (including Vitebsk regional organization). The main reason for liquidation was that local party structures failed to have an office at the location of their legal address, or had other kinds of inaccuracies with legal addresses. It must be pointed out that in majority of cases local party structures were liquidated several days before candidates’ registration deadline or, directly, on the last day of candidates’ registration (September 16, 2004).
For example, for that reason the following candidates were not registered: BPF member Uladzimir Vialichkin (Rechytskaya primary organization was liquidated in Brest), BSDP (NH) member Volha Karach, PCB member Alexander Kukhta (Polatsk rural district # 28), and UCP member Uladzimir Belakhvostaw (Klichaw district # 68).
The majority of political parties have in their Statutes that their superior national governing body is a Congress. However, according to the Statute of United Civic Party, the National Committee is also the superior national governing body. Equally, the Belarusian Social-Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada) has a Central Committee with the same status. Using that provision of their Statute, the BSDP (NH) held a plenary session of the Central Committee on August 21 and nominated 56 candidates for parliament. Meanwhile, before the political parties started to nominate their candidates CEC chairperson Lidya Yarmoshyna had claimed that only a party Congress has the right to nominate candidates and candidates nominated by other party bodies but congresses would not be registered by district election commissions. In its turn, BSDP (NH) continued to assert the right of the party Central Committee to nominate candidates. Only the Ministry of Justice could settle the dispute, and the Central Election Commission filed an inquiry to the Ministry about the competence of BSDP (NH) Central Committee to nominate candidates. The Ministry of Justice decided in favor of the social democrats recognizing such a right of the party’s governing body.
The majority of political parties nominated their candidates during congresses which had been held under exacting control of the Ministry of Justice staff. Furthermore, the UCP congress was disrupted: formally, through the fault of a hotel administration which at the last moment refused to provide a conference room for uncertain reasons (despite the prior agreement and payment). At the same time, presence of the big number of police force, including people in civil clothes, and video filming by police officers outside and inside the hotel lead to conclusion that such outcome was pre-arranged. As the result of these circumstances, UCP had to hold its congress under very unfavorable conditions of the party office.
This was not the only fact of pressure on UCP. During CEC hearing of UCP member Zinaida Bandarenka’s complaint about her non-registration, there appeared a document (a fax) from Smarhon district commission. It was a letter on the letterhead of the Ministry of Justice and signed by deputy Minister Krawtsow, which said Zinaida Bandarenka could not be registered a candidate because UCP congress had been recognized illegitimate. At the same time, the letter did not give reasons for illegitimacy of the congress. Valery Matskevich, CEC member and Ministry of Justice representative, could not explain the circumstances of appearance of that document and even didn’t know it existed. After UCP chairperson A. Labedzka met with the Minister of Justice V. R. Halavanaw, CEC received another letter from the Ministry which confirmed legitimacy of the party congress. After the meeting Labedzka explained that the Ministry had questions about nomination of candidates from 4 party structures, but not to the congress in general.
We consider the events around UCP congress and candidates' nomination pressure on the political party from the Ministry of Justice. It could also be possible that the authorities had been working on the scenario of non-registration and cancellation of registration of UCP candidates by recognizing its congress illegitimate.
After the political parties held congresses they submitted the appropriate nomination documents to district election commission which later granted or denied registration to candidates.
Registration results of political parties’ candidates
1. Information about nomination and registration of party candidates through party nomination and voters’ signature collection
BPF Party UCP PCB BSDP (NH) BSDH Total
Nominated 55 59 38 56 19 227
Registered 36* 27 24 28** 8 120 (52%)
Denied 15 32 14 24 11 96 (42,3%)
* 4 persons withdrew their candidacies;
** 4 party members withdrew their candidacies.
Thus, over 40% of potential candidates from pro-democratic political parties were not allowed in the race.
2. Results of candidates’ registration through party nomination, according to CEC information.
UCP PCB BSDP (NH) BSDH Total
24 26 21 25 8 104
The main reason for registration denials was indication of inaccurate data about annual income and property in income declarations.
For example, Smarhon district election commission denied registration to UCP member Zinaida Bandarenka referring to the fact the she had miscalculated 20 BYR (0.009 USD) of her pension in the income declaration. During her complaint consideration the Central Election Commission found out that Mrs. Bandarenka had made no mistakes in the total amount of her annual income and registered her by a solid vote. Having lost much time for appealing her non-registration in the Central Election Commission, Zinaida Bandarenka could start her campaign 2 weeks later than other candidates.
It is indicative that in a number of cases salary and income data, which candidates received from their employers and indicated in the income declarations, did not coincide with the data received by district commissions from the local tax agencies. BSDP (NH) member Valery Fralow was denied registration by Masiukowshchyna district commission # 104 for exactly that reason. Fralow, an incumbent MP and Respublika group member, made an inquiry to the Chamber of Representatives about his salary in 2003 and to the military registration and enlistment office about the amount of pension he received in the same period. He entered the data received from these state institutions into the income declaration. However, during the registration procedure it was found out that the district commission had received quite different information about Fralow’s income from the same institutions. This has become the reason for his non-registration. Moreover, the district election commission claimed Fralow had a piece of land he officially sold many years ago. On September 24 the Central Election Commission considered his complaint and the documents which proved his case and registered Fralow as a candidate. Meanwhile, Valery Fralow lost almost 2 weeks of campaign period.
Hlybokaye district commission # 33 denied registration to BPF member Yaraslaw Bernikovich for the reason of income concealment. Actually, the “concealment” was the fact that Mr. Bernikovich indicated an honorarium from Sluzhba Spaseniya-01 magazine of 104 800 BYR. According to the letter of Hlybokaye tax and duties inspectorate received by the district election commission, the candidate received 120 000 BYR, minus tax of 10 800 BYR. Thus, the income Bernikovich received from the magazine was 109 200 BYR. Meanwhile, according to the remittance Bernikovich received from the magazine, his honorarium was 104 800 BYR: exactly what he indicated in the income declaration. During complaint consideration CEC agreed with his position and decided to register him as a candidate.
CEC hearing of appeals against district commissions’ decisions not to register candidates have shown that overwhelming majority of groundless denials of registration fell on representatives of pro-democratic political parties. As the result of appealing to the Central Election Commission and the Supreme Court, 32 representatives of pro-democratic political parties out of 164 appeals were registered. Thus, the number of registered members of pro-democratic political parties grew from 120 to 153 candidates. Firstly, this is the evidence of biased attitude of district election commissions to nominees of pro-democratic parties; secondly, it reveals low qualification of election commission members.
It should be pointed out that many members of political parties nominated as candidates were subjected to pressure from the executive authorities: in the majority of cases, through their employers (administration of enterprises). That led to several candidates deciding to quit the race.
For example, BPF congress nominated Dzmitry Shevel, head of local party structure, a candidate in Lahoisk election district # 82. When Shevel applied to election commission for registration, head of Lahoisk district executive committee Nestsiarkow summoned director of Minaut enterprise, where Shevel works as inspector foreman. Nestsiarkow demanded in a categorical form that the BPF should quit either the race or the job. Otherwise he promised to close down the company, or, at least, to create unbearable conditions for its existence. In order not to let 130 of his co-workers down, Dzmitry Shevel had to quit as a candidate. At the same time, Shevel wrote a complaint to the district prosecutor asking to investigate the fact of power abuse by head of Lahoisk administration Nestsiarkow.
BPF member Ales Mekh (Kobryn district # 11) was threatened with similar consequences. He works as low-pressure gas networks operation engineer of Beltransgaz Kobryn department. Despite the threats of dismissal Ales Mekh rejected the illegal demand of the company’s administration.
We have registered cases of dismissal of individuals nominated for the Chamber of Representatives. For example, 2 nominees of BPF party – Alaksei Siudak, history teacher in Khodasava School, and Volha Lahvinovich, psychologist of Maladechna school # 12 – were fired from work.
Thus, the process of candidates’ nomination by political parties was characterized by pressure from the Ministry of Justice and the executive authorities on the political parties of the country. The parties were pressurized in the following ways: disruption of candidates’ nomination congress; numerous unscheduled check-ups of party structures by the Ministry of Justice and its regional departments; liquidation of local organizational structures of political parties, dismissals and threats of dismissals from work of candidates of pro-democratic political parties.
3. Nomination of candidates by work collectives
According to Art 69 of the Belarusian Constitution, work collectives are subjects which have the right to nominate candidates for parliament. The procedure of candidates’ nomination by work collectives is regulated by Art 63 of the Election Code.
According to Art 63, work collectives may nominate candidates at meetings (conferences) of employees. Also, the article says, a work collective nominating a candidate should be located in a district, consist of no less than 300 employees, and have the status of a legal entity. Meetings (conferences) may be convened by organization’s management and initiated either by management or a voters’ group of no less of 150 employees.
More than half of the employees are to be present at a meeting. A work collective may nominate only one candidate for the Chamber of Representatives. Decisions at the meeting (conference) of a work collective are made by a majority vote.
This way of nomination is often used for nominating candidates supported by the authorities. Most often such meetings are convened by management of state-owned enterprises, or joint-stock companies with state majority interest.
In view of practically total conversion of state employees to contracts, during the majority of meetings the work collectives unanimously voted for a candidate proposed by management. In fact, such meetings of work collectives evidently demonstrate the use of the administrative resource. This way of candidates’ nomination was often accompanied with violation of principle of free participation in election.
It should be pointed out that practically all countries of the former Soviet Union cancelled the principle of candidates’ nomination by work collectives. Independent experts in the sphere of election legislation and representatives of pro-democratic political parties have repeatedly spoken and made proposals about the necessity to cancel this form of nomination procedure. In late August, during the stage of candidates’ nomination CEC chairperson Lidya Yarmoshyna spoke about such possibility: “In the future we would probably have to diverge from nomination of candidates by work collectives as it was done in the Soviet times. Work collectives should not participate in politics. Employees are reluctant to come to such meetings”.
Altogether 137 candidates nominated by work collectives were registered. Two candidates were registered by CEC after complaint consideration. Thus, the total of 139 candidates nominated by work collectives was registered (32.2% of the total number of candidates).
Appealing district election commissions’ registration denials
According to Art. 68 of the Election Code, district commission’s denial or registration may be appealed by a candidate to the Central Election Commission in a 3-day term. The decision of the Central Election Commission may be appealed to the Supreme Court in a 3-day term. The Supreme Court has 3 days to consider the appeal and make a final decision.
164 candidates exercised the right to appeal the registration denials to the Central Election Commission. CEC started to hear candidates’ appeals on September 21 and finished on September 29, 2004. CEC satisfied complaints and registered 44 candidates, among them: 2 candidates nominated by work collectives, 10 candidates nominated by signature collection, and 33 candidates nominated by political parties.
Over 60 people exercised the right to complain to the Supreme Court after the hearing by the Central Election Commission. The Supreme Court satisfied only 2 complaints: Siarhei Yarmak, head of Social Democratic Party of National Consent (Homel-Yubileynaya district # 33) and member of Communist Party of Belarus Uladzimir Shokaw (Staravilenskaya district #105) got registered.
Results of registration of candidates of pro-democratic political parties after appealing to CEC and the Supreme Court, according to CEC
BPF Party UCP PCB BSDP (NH) BSDH Total
30 37 30 28 11 136
We are concerned about the fact that after the stage of registration, in 8 out of 110 election districts (7.27%) the election will be a single-candidate election: Ivatsevichy election district # 10, Vitebsk rural election district # 21, Homel-Navabelitski election district # 38, Homel rural election district # 39, Kalinkavichy election district # 43, Mazyr election district # 44, Khoiniki election district # 49, Navahrudak election district # 59.
It should be pointed out that presence of advisory members of the Central Election Commission at its sessions during hearing of candidates’ complaints about non-registration has had its effect. Due to their presence, the Central Election Commission reversed some decisions of district commissions and obliged them to register the candidates.
1. During candidates’ registration the power vertical continued to openly interfere with the election process with the purpose to ensure that only appointed candidates get the mandate
2. Belarusian authorities continued to pursue the policy of confrontation with pro-democratic political parties and the civic society, and created the atmosphere of distrust in society.
3. This election stage was characterized by pressure on pro-democratic candidates by their employers, dismissal of candidates and their team activists from work, and pressure on voters who put their signatures in support of representatives of the country’s pro-democratic forces.
4. The authorities continued to oppress pro-democratic political parties that actively participated in the election campaign, especially the parties which agreed to act on coalition platforms.
5. Well-known public and political figures were deprived of the possibility to participate in the election.
6. Analysis of this stage of the election gives grounds to state that the election for the Chamber of Representatives is not democratic and does not meet the principles of free, fair, and transparent elections and the international election standards.