Ales BIALIATSKI: ‘The authorities cheat the people – that’s why the situation needs to be changed’ -- a well-known human rights activist comments on the election to local deputy soviets in Belarus
Being a human rights activist one can’t call this ‘election’ a real election campaign. All that happened in our sight for the last three months and especially during the last days before the election can be called a massive intimidation of the Belarusian society. Numerous illegal detentions, harassment of political and public activists, suppression of any king of public initiative and opportunity that are guaranteed to Belarusian citizens by the Constitution – all these facts give enough reasons for the statement that it was rather a bad farce than an election.
We could see an openly negative attitude to political parties. Their possibilities were considerably and strictly limited by means of legal acts and amendments to the election legislation of Belarus. Moreover, the members of parties who participated in the election as observers, candidates and their proxies were persecuted throughout all the campaign. This put the campaign on election to local deputy soviets outside the civilized frames. We saw dozens of public activists being arrested for far-fetched reasons during the last days before the election. Some of them were accused of ‘petty hooliganism’ or commitment of some invented ‘crimes’. The campaign of arrests and repressions was well-planned, coordinated and conducted in different cities of Belarus. Moreover, some of the candidates to deputy positions were imprisoned during the election. For instance, it happened to two oppositional candidates in Pinsk.
A considerable part of democratic candidates revoked their candidacies due to obstacles put to them during the election campaign. The withdrawn candidates stated that the election takes place in unfavorable conditions and the authorities gave them no possibilities for holding a normal agitation campaign. In this case there is no use speaking of political pluralism and democratic procedure. One needs to have a clear understanding that at present Belarus has a strict totalitarian system of suppression of any views except the ones that are proposed to the Belarusian society by the authorities.
We know it well enough that elections are held by the presidential vertical, executive state organs and the election commissions serve as a screen for concealment of gross manipulations. The election procedures were non-democratic: almost no representatives of political parties and public organizations were included into election commissions. A considerable part of candidates to deputy positions wasn’t registered or deprived of registration for far-fetched reasons. The non-transparent procedure of calculation of votes and early voting (during five days of which about 20% of the electorate voted) – all this speaks for the fact that the authorities appointed the election, then appointed their people to the commissions, conducted the calculations and declared some numbers trying to convince the Belarusian society and the international community in their likelihood.
We must understand that at present the international community has a good awareness of the situation of Belarus. That’s why I believe that due to its non-democratic nature this election will join the line of other elections that were conducted in Belarus and weren’t recognized.
The task of public activists is to deliver true information to ordinary citizens whom the authorities keep in the informational vacuum or brainwash with streams of propagandist lies pouring from all state radio and TV channels.
It’s worth mentioning that during the election to local deputy soviets the authorities conducted a purposeful campaign of combating true information. A considerable number of election leaflets didn’t reach the electorate. Agitation materials of democratic candidates were arrested. Not all candidates managed to voice their election programs on the radio. Their speeches were censored or banned at all. It seems to me that by massive confiscations of printing production starting with calendars and ending with election flyers and by non-admission of any free information the authorities demonstrate their fear to lose the informational monopoly which they are trying to maintain.
Another threat to the ‘state order’ in our country is monitoring. Free monitoring immediately reveals thousands of gross violations of the election legislation, be it even such bad and imperfect one as ours. Being summed up these facts show the general unsightly outlook of the elections. As a rule, the conclusions of independent observers are very unpleasant to the Belarusian authorities and the Central Election Commission. That’s why this time they did everything to prevent NGOs and ordinary citizens from monitoring. An eloquent example is suspension of the organization activities of the Belarusian republican club of electors – an organization that intended to monitor the election. The authorities do it all for retaining the power. That’s why they cheat the Belarusian people.
We, Belarusian human rights activists are extremely indignant at such situation. We are of opinion that this election is far from being democratic, free and transparent and therefore urge the Belarusian society to have a sober look on the situation and refuse from putting up with it. We call for showing public activity and leading the situation out of the deep political and moral crisis in which Belarus is sinking today.