Former Candidates to Local Councils Speak about the Election and Campaign

2007 2007-01-17T10:00:00+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The opposition candidates have a common opinion – the election fraud had no borders, reports hrodna.by. This time commission members even didn’t try to conceal the data garbling. Candidates tell their stories.

For example, Ms Vershtad was a candidate to Smarhon council. She says her friend who was a member of the election commission told her that she received 78% of votes. However, the commission “gave” only 20% to her.

That is that easy. May be in the future such actions of the commission and its chairperson will be punished. However, now the authorities and its myrmidons feel safe. Although, possibly the recent situation with oil and gas could sober them up a little…

Siarhei Malchyk, one of the pro-democratic leaders of Hrodna region, evaluates the results of the local election. He points out that the set goals and objectives have not been achieved. None of the people present at the meeting of the city press-club could challenge his statement…

Former local councilor Ales Zarembiuk ran to Masty district council again. He lacked 2 (!) votes to win the election. There was some “fussing” at the polling station as well: members of the election commission made a number of illogical actions which obviously were directed at confusing the observers: they moved tables around the room, left the ballot boxes unattended, etc. For some reason they left the commission secretary alone in a room with ballot boxes. She spent 40 minutes there. Zarembiuk and his colleagues saw her leaving the polling station. Then, all of a sudden a car with a representative of the municipality arrived. The official responsible for the election wanted to enter the polling station, but saw the independent candidates and their friends. He turned around and drove away. May be he didn’t like the slogan on the car of the democrats: “Zarembiuk: to end corruption in Masty!”

Masty is still the place where smart work of the democratic teams achieves some results. Dzmitry Kukhlei is elected local councilor. He explains:

-- One should control the whole election process at all polling stations. If possible, one should always be one step ahead of the “vertical”. One should not agree to compromises and base on the laws and the Constitution. By the way, as a rule, commission members are unaware of the law requirements. One should record each fact of violation in reports and insist on one’s ideas with the Election Code in one’s hands.

Siarhei Antusevich and Siarhei Kuzmianiuk also failed to become councilors again. They represented pro-democratic opinion in the previous city council of Hrodna.

Siarhei Antusevich was late to the meeting of the press-club because he had attended the trial. The court considered the case of Mikola Lemianouski, member of Antusevich’s team. Lemianouski was detained near school # 11, where one of the polling stations was located. He was sentenced to 3 days of jail.

-- This is just an imitation of the election. Some people in the “vertical” decided to hold the election during the Catholic and the Orthodox Christmases, and the New Year. That is why the turn out is low. That led to violation of the law, because the commissions had to have enough voters. They were not squeamish about any means.

There are different stories. For example, members of one of the election commissions took a ballot box and went door-to-door asking people to vote. They claimed they went to the voters who called them, and asked them to come. However, they also visited people who didn’t invite them. For example, they came to a voter, and the voter lay in a coffin. Imagine a picture: they came to a dead person hoping that he would cast a vote!

The journalists asked for opinions about the sense of participation in the election. Should opposition candidates participate in the game which has no rules and the results of which are known ahead of time? Young candidates had a common opinion: one should participate in the race in order to get the experience, to promote pro-democratic ideas and to remind the voters that there are people who are in opposition to the regime.

Siarhei Antusevich has a different opinion:

-- The “vertical” includes our people as candidates in order to increase the turn out. We became an attraction for democratic voters who come to the polling stations in order to support us. The authorities need that in order to have a good turn out and announce the election legitimate.

May be, it makes sense for the democratic forces to refuse from participation in the future parliamentary election. Then the “vertical” will not be able to pretend that the regime is democratic. They will not have the possibility to say: “”the elections are legitimate and the authorities are legitimate. The democratic forces take part in the election. What else do you want?”

During the meeting representatives of different forces evaluated the local election coalition of political parties and movements. In the beginning everything was alright: representatives of different political parties gathered and signed a united declaration. However, the local coalition did not manage to choose the leader of the local democratic forces. Some leaders did not manage to set aside their ambition for the sake of unity. Possibly, it wasn’t that bad. There were few democratic candidates and enough districts for them to run. The campaigns did not overlap. The coalition building did not work in Hrodna. However, it worked well in Masty, Slonim, Smarhon and other towns in the region.

Local activists are aware of the necessity to work with voters every day, not only during the time of elections. Democratic activists should visit every village and every house. Elections are not the last opportunity to talk to the people, to receive feedback from them, and to work on the image of the opposition forces.

Nothing was said about restoring the information space in the country. The authorities did everything to cleanse it from pro-democratic views and opinions. There are no pro-democratic newspapers, no radio, no TV. Mass media should inform people about persecution of pro-democratic activists, politically-motivated detentions, trials, and prison sentences. Internet is good, but 80 % of voters in the regions do not have access to it…

The leaders of the Democratic Forces should thoroughly analyze the results of the local election and draw conclusions. They should not make the same mistakes.

The words of a young councilor remain in my memory. Talking about the forms and methods of work he stressed, that one should be on the offensive in the relations with the “vertical”. Then its representatives lose their presence of mind, they even start to apologize. So the conclusion is: They are afraid!

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