Preliminary conclusions of Human Rights Center "Viasna" concerning the results of the Parliamentary election and the national referendum
HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER “VIASNA”
Election into the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the third convocation and the national referendum of 2004
Preliminary conclusions concerning the results of the election and the national referendum
The election into the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the third convocation was appointed to 17 October 2004 by presidential decree No. 332 of 14 July 2004. By presidential decree No. 431 of 7 September 2004 the national referendum was appointed on 17 October as well.
1. Compliance of presidential decree No. 431 to appoint national referendum with the present legislation
On the basis of article #78 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus (“the list of the questions that can be put to referendum is defined by the legislation of the Republic of Belarus”) and paragraph 2 of part 3 of article #112 of the Electoral Code (“questions concerning election and resign of the president of the Republic of Belarus can’t be put to referendum) the question, defined by decree No. 431 can’t be put to national referendum.
Venice Commission of the Council of Europe concerned the question about the compliance of the referendum in Belarus to the standards of the Council of Europe. According to conclusions of the Venice Commission, the question that is put to referendum gives birth to a number of controversies. For instance, it directly contradicts to the Electoral Code and article #22 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.
2. Public and political situation in the Republic of Belarus on the eve and during the campaign on the election and the referendum
The public and political situation on the eve of the announcement of the election into the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus and the national referendum remained as complicated as during previous years. With the beginning of the electoral and the referendum campaigns the situation considerably deteriorated. The country’s regime continued the purposeful policy with the aim to strengthen the control of the society and make it total. Criminal and administrative persecution of political opponents, liquidation and pressurization of oppositional political parties and liquidation of non-state mass media continued.
Taking into consideration the concentration of power A. Lukashenka managed to achieve and the real possibility to influence public and political processes in the country and the activity of Central Election Commission, the electoral process was completely subdued to his scenario. In the beginning of the election A. Lukashenka pronounced his formula for the new parliament of the country. The results of the election and the referendum were made to conform to this formula.
Belarusian authorities didn’t take any measures to develop the electoral legislation of the country for democratization and transparency of the electoral process. They didn’t execute the recommendations of BDIHR/OSCE that were elaborated as a result of the electoral campaigns of 2000 and 2001.
3. Setup of the election commissions for holding of the election and the national referendum
a) Establishment of circuit election commissions
For the election into the Chamber of Representatives of the Republic of Belarus the country was divided into 110 election circuits. Circuit election commissions were formed by presidiums of regional deputy soviets and Minsk City Deputy Soviet, regional executive committees and Minsk City Executive Committee.
The Electoral Code doesn’t contain any criteria for the choice of persons to such commissions. Neither do the rulings of Central Election Commission. Political parties and public organizations actively nominated their representatives to circuit commissions. In the majority of cases their representatives weren’t included into the commissions. For instance, political parties nominated 318 persons to circuit election commissions, but only 20 persons were included, which is less than 2% of the total number of members of the commissions.
Representatives of public organizations constitute 20% of the total number of members of circuit commissions. The overwhelming majority of them are representatives of pro-governmental public organizations (Belarusian Republican Youth Union, Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, Union of Veterans of Afghanistan, etc.).
The main part of members of circuit commissions are persons who were nominated by working collectives of state enterprises and institutions (28,5%) and by applications of citizens (33,4%). The published lists of members of election commissions didn’t mention their occupation (it was published only in Minsk and Hrodna regions and wasn’t mentioned in the lists of other regions and the city of Minsk). It was made in order to conceal the fact of dependence of the commissions on the executive authorities.
b) Setup of territorial commissions on holding of the national referendum
The national referendum was organized by the acting regional territorial election commissions and Minsk city territorial election commissions, by district elections commissions and city election commissions. These commissions were established during the election into local Deputy Soviets of the Republic of Belarus of the 24th convocation.
Parties had the smallest representation in the regional commissions and Minsk city commission – 10,9%. Democratic parties were represented by only one member of Party of Communists of Belarus in Homel regional commissions. The situation for district and city commissions on holding of the national referendum was the same.
The presidiums of town deputy soviets and executive committees also established 24 additional district commissions on holding of the referendum in towns. No representatives of democratic political parties were included into them.
c) Setup of polling station commissions on holding the election and the national referendum
According to ruling #66 of the Central Election Commission of 8 September 2004 polling station commissions were engaged both in holding of the election and of the referendum. Polling station commissions were established by district executive committees and city executive committees.
The total number of polling station commissions was 6 619, the total number of their members – 72 350 persons. The majority of the latter ones (50,6%) were nominated by citizens, 36,4% – nominated by working collectives, 5% – representatives of district, city and town executive committees, 8% – representatives of political parties and public associations, тый і грамадскіх аб’яднанняў -- 8% (nominees from democratic parties constituted only 0,2% at the polling station commissions).
The authorities concealed the information about the setup of polling election commissions. The state regional newspapers that were to have published information about it were issued in limited circulation and weren’t distributed to subscribers and libraries.
So, on the stage of establishment of commissions on holding of the election and of the referendum of all stages the authorities created all conditions for total control of the electoral process, falsification and manipulation of the results of the voting.
4. Registration of candidates to deputies
According to the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, candidates to deputies of the Chamber of Representatives of the Republic of Belarus can be nominated by parties, working collectives or as a result of collection of signatures in their support.
All in all there were nominated 692 pretenders to candidates, 359 (51,88%), were registered, 312 (45,09%) weren’t registered. A part of pretenders refused from participation in the election.
The process of registration of the initiative groups was accompanied by pressurization of members of initiative groups and pretenders to candidates. One of the results of this well-planned campaign was quite a large percent of refusals to register initiative groups, the majority of which were independent candidates or members of democratic political parties. So, 11,5% of initiative groups weren’t registered (for instance, during parliamentary election of 2000 only 4,5% of initiative groups weren’t registered).
In total there were established 558 initiative groups. However, only 71 candidates were registered as a result of collection of signatures. Such great difference between the numbers can be explained with the fact that the majority of members of parties that collected signatures used the right for party nomination. Besides, a large part of the refusals concern nomination by signatures due to difficulties or impossibility to control the results of the check-up of the validity of signatures. Actually, the pretenders to candidates that weren’t registered by circuit commissions were registered as a result of complaints to Central Election Commission.
The process of nomination of candidates from political parties was accompanied with mass check-ups of their regional structures by the authorities. As a result, more than ten primary units of the United Civil Party, two of Belarusian People’s Front, 8 of the Party of Communists of Belarus and ten units of Belarusian Social Democratic Party “Narodnaya Hramada” were liquidated, which was used as a reason not to register the candidates they nominated.
Circuit election commission deprived more than 40% of the candidates that were nominated by political parties. The results of the complaints to Central Election Commission against non-registration of candidates showed that the overwhelming majority of refusals concerned representatives of democratic political parties – registration was given to 32 party candidates (whereas the total number of registrations given by Central Election Commission as a result of complaints was 44).
139 candidates were registered by nomination from working collectives, which is 32,2% from the general number of candidates. This method of nomination was most often used for nomination of the candidates who are supported by the authorities. One of the results of such method of nomination is violation of the principle of free participation in the election.
5. Agitation at the election and the referendum
During the agitation campaign the equal opportunities and conditions weren’t provided for all subjects of the electoral process. It concerned first of all the order of usage of state printed and electronic mass media for agitation.
In some cases heads of TV and Radio companies groundlessly refused to provide ether time and possibility to take the floor to candidates. The programs of candidates, their spee4ches at state radio and television, in the pages of printed state mass media were censored. Printed state mass media published defaming and insulting materials aimed at discrediting of political parties and movements, their activists and leaders.
All state mass media agitated only for support of the questions that were put to the referendum. At the same time, the persons who distributed printed materials “against” were detained and the materials were confiscated from them because of absence of issue data. It contradicts to article #45 of the Electoral Code, according to which the printed materials concerning referendums don’t need to have issue data on them.
There were registered cases of confiscation of agitation materials of democratic candidates that were produced in full conformity with the law demands. Offices of parties and headquarters of candidates were searched without appropriate juridical sanctions.
The possibilities for agitation were unequal for candidates from provinces and Minsk. Places for meetings with the electorate weren’t provided anywhere except for Minsk. There weren’t provided equal conditions for organization of meetings with electors at state enterprises and institutions.
During the agitation campaign several dozens of independent candidates and candidates from democrat parties were deprived of registration. In many cases it was made with the use of provocative means, aimed at discrediting of candidates.
6. Early voting on the election and the referendum
The early voting on the election of deputies to the Chamber of Representatives and the republican referendum started on 12 October 2004 and lasted for five days. This stage of the electoral campaign was accompanied with mass violations of article 5 of the Electoral Code which guarantees to citizens of the country the right to free participation in elections and referenda. People were forced to early voting. The main categories of citizens that were strongly pressurized are students who study outside the places of their residence and life in student dormitories, workers of state enterprises and institutions, military servants. According to Central Election Commission, the total percent of number of the early votes is participants is 17,8 %, but in this case the official number can be much smaller than the real one.
Facts of mass compulsion to vote early and the absence of sufficient control over the ballot boxes during the five days of the early voting presented a good background for falsifications of the results of the voting.
One of the basic violations during the voting was manipulation with lists of electors: a considerable part of electors weren’t included into the lists that were presented for public information. Observers and proxies of candidates weren’t informed about the number of the registered electors and the number of early votes.
Electors put only one signature for receiving of one ballot for the election and one ballot for the referendum. This also gave possibilities for manipulations and falsifications.
The fact that the candidates for whom electors voted were deprived of registration causes a great concern.
7. The day of the election and the referendum
On the day of the election and the referendum state electronic mass media continued active agitation and publication of results of polls that were conducted by state-controlled sociological agency and pro-governmental public organizations. At the same time, as a result of pressure and open harassment by the police the poll that was conducted by independent sociological services was in danger of disruption. Agitation materials hanged at polling stations. There were registered cases of agitation by members of election commissions.
The voting in the places of residence (so called home-voting) was conducted with violations of the secrecy of vote, the principle of free participation in elections and with manipulations with the lists of electors.
The voting at polling stations was often accompanied with violations of the electoral legislation: issue of ballots without presentation of passports or documents that could replace them, issue of several ballots to one person. There was registered a case of issue of filled referendum ballots at a polling station.
The procedure of the calculation of votes didn’t correspond to the demands of the electoral legislation: there was no separate calculation of votes for early voting, home voting and voting on the day of the election. The unused ballots weren’t sealed and calculated which could protect them against second use.
The form of the final protocol on the results of the election and the republican referendum didn’t meet the demands of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus. It didn’t mention the number of:
-- the ballots that were received by polling station commissions;
-- votes against all candidates, for each candidate,
-- negative votes concerning the referendum question;
-- the persons who took part in the referendum;
-- the persons who took part in the election.
In a number of cases members of polling station commissions weren’t admitted to calculation of votes and sittings of circuit election commissions.
The monitoring of the election and the republican referendum can’t be fulfilled both by internal and international observers. According to the official information, 685 international observers from 53 countries of the world took part in the election, including 284 observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States and 283 OSCE observers. Internal monitoring was conducted by 24 537 observers, about 1 000 of whom were nominated by political parties and proxies of candidates to deputies.
The internal observers and proxies faced with the following violations of their rights that are guaranteed by the electoral legislation:
 non-motivated refusals to register them as observers at polling stations;
 refusals to present any information;
 warnings and threats of expel from polling stations and administrative punishment;
 mass deprival of registration at polling stations during early voting and especially on the day of the election (17 October).
During the calculation of votes observers were deprived of the possibility to conduct real all-sided monitoring of this procedure. As a result, the calculation of votes was closed and secret.
1. The question that was put to referendum according to the presidential decree, contradicts to the Constitution and the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus.
2. the election and the republican referendum were conducted in the atmosphere of non-confidence in the society and informational isolation.
3. the country’s authorities didn’t take any measures to make the electoral legislation more democratic and they didn’t follow the recommendations of BDIHR/OSCE.
4. the election of deputies to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus was conducted in the conditions of pressurization of all subjects of the electoral process by the executive authorities: the authorities intimidated electors, democratic parties, candidates and members of initiative groups.
5. Establishment of election commissions on holding of the election and the referendum took place with violation of the principle of wide representation of democratic parties and public associations of the country.
6. The agitation campaign on the election and the referendum took place with violation of the principle of equality. The agitation at referendum was one-sided.
7. A considerable part of pretenders and candidates were not admitted to the election (they were either not registered or deprived of registration, some of them during early voting).
8. the right to free participation in elections was violated by forcing people to vote early, before 17 October.
9. the calculation of votes was made with gross violations of the electoral legislation.
10. The electoral process was closed and non-transparent, which was reflected in non-presentation of information concerning the electoral process, non-admission of people to polling stations and circuit election commissions, expels of observers, proxies of candidates and members of election commissions from polling stations.
We state that the election into the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus and the voting on the referendum did not comply with the national electoral legislation and international principles in the field of organization and holding of elections: the principles of publicity, transparency and democracy.
As a result of the monitoring of the campaign on the election of deputies to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus and the national referendum Human Rights Center “Viasna” states that
the official results of the election and the referendum didn’t reflect the real will of the people even to the smallest extent.