ELECTION WEEK: EVENTS AND GENERAL CONCLUSIONS
Formation of precinct election commissions was the main topic this week. As a result, very few representatives of pro-democratic parties and NGOs will work in the commissions.
Another week trend was growing amount of promotion of pro-governmental candidates in state mass media, who, in violation of the election law, seem to be not ashamed of giving election promises on this stage of the campaign. The candidates, especially incumbent MPs, seem to have just woken up after four-year hibernation and all of a sudden remembered about their voters. To be more precise, they decided it was about time to start “feeding” people with another portion of usual promises.
At the same time, the so-called “self-initiative” – running without the agreement of the authorities, which in fact is the expression of the political will of a citizen, not only fails to win admiration (although it should – finally people show political activity the authorities have been calling for!) but leads to job losses…
Signature collection for the candidates backed by the authorities was quite different from the process which pro-democratic and independent candidates had to undertake.
Tendencies in formation of precinct commissions
… non-inclusion of political party representatives
This week district rayon executive committees across the country formed 6, 485precinct commissions. The total number of commission members is 69, 845. Political parties nominated 1, 237 of their candidates to the commissions. Among the political parties in opposition, the Party of Communists of Belarus nominated the biggest number of people – 425. The United Civil Party nominated 344, BPF Party – 201, and the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) – 70. The coalition of the United Democratic Forces (UDF) stated that inclusion of its representatives in the commissions is one of the conditions for recognizing the election, and in some region – for their further participation in the election campaign. However, very few UDF representatives were included in the commissions: 29 members of PCB, 7 members of UCP, 4 – BPF, and 3 – from BSDP H. In addition, 4 members of BPF Adradzhennie NGO were included in the commissions. At the same time, 9, 028 members of pro-governmental NGOs became members of precinct election commissions.
… “hospital” bias
The Party of Communists of Belarus nominated 43 people to precinct commissions in Kolasauskaya district # 106 in Minsk. Savetski rayon administration included only 3 of them in the commissions. All of them will work in commissions in “closed” polling stations: polling station # 495 – the city infectious clinical hospital, # 500 – the military hospital, and # 505 – the hospital of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The same rayon administration included Vincuk Viachorka’s campaign manager (district # 107) in the election commission which is located in the TB dispensary and has only 60 voters.
In majority of the regions the observers were not admitted to the sessions of executive committees where precinct election commissions were formed.
Niasvizh rayon executive committee refused to inform observer Uladzimir Paklonski about the time and place of the session for forming the precinct election commissions. Later he learned the session took place on August 12th.
Observer Vital Amelkovich was also not informed about the date, time and place of the executive committee’s session. Moreover, on August 12th he visited the office of Slutsk rayon executive committee and found out the session for forming the commissions was taking place in one of the rooms. He asked for the number of the room and was denied that information.
Observer Kazimir Kavetski was not allowed to attend the executive committee’s session. The officials refused to present the complaint book when he wanted to write a complaint about the unlawful actions of the executive committee’s officials.
During the session of Kobryn rayon executive committee observer Viktar Dashkevich asked to show him nomination minutes and applications for inclusion in the precinct election commissions. The reaction of the executive committee officials was quite interesting: the session was announced closed for public and the observer was asked to leave.
…pressure on nominees
BPF Party submitted the list of its nominees to precinct commissions in Kastrychnitskaya district # 97 in the morning of August 7th. In the evening of the same very day two people from the list received phone calls from the local administration. The officials asked them if they really want to be included in the commission and invited them to come to the office of the rayon administration.
In Paudniova-Zakhodniaya district # 99 the list of BPF nominees to commissions was submitted to the rayon administration in the evening of August 7th. Next morning some of them received phone calls with proposals to refuse from membership in commissions and invitations for a talk. The pressure came from employers and college administrations of the nominees.
College administration of one of the students who had been nominated to a precinct commission in district # 99 put him before a direct choice: either membership in the commission, or his studies.
Worker of ball bearing plant was deprived of his monthly bonus (350,000 BYR, or 175 USD) for his nomination to the commission. The plant administration openly announced the real reason for that. Moreover, they sent the worker to collect signatures for the pro-governmental candidate, where he (just as many other workers) had been included without special desire or agreement.
DISMISSAL FOR NOMINATION AS CANDIDATES
The bodies of internal affairs did not forgive “self-initiative” to one of the best district police officers, police captain Andre Levinau, who decided to run in Vitebsk –Chyhunachnaya # 19. On August 12th, the regional police administration showed Andrei Levinau the decision of the head of Vitebsk police department police colonel Farmahei about his dismissal from the bodies of internal affairs. Moreover, Levinau is being threatened with criminal charges. The reason for the threats is obvious: they consider district officer Levinau as a real competitor to incumbent MP Siarhei Siamashka. We should point out, a criminal case (even if the charges are dropped later) will be an opportunity for the district commission to deny registration to captain Levinau as a candidate.
Contenders under surveillance of special services
In Babruisk, on August 12th, candidate Alena Miadzvedzeva was summoned to KGB on the case of July explosion in Minsk. She had a conversation with lieutenant colonel Aleh Akhremenka and deputy head of Babruisk KGB Siarhei Zemliakou. The woman was shown pictures and identikits of men. Then they asked her if she could shoot, because her husband was a military officer. Alena Miadzvedzeva was in Moscow on the day of the blast. During the conversation she learned from the KGB officers that they had received the “ruling on explosions” and had to check all local “oppositionists”.
In the morning of August 15th, Yuras Karenikau, candidate in paudniova-Zakhodniaya district # 99 in Minsk, was visited by a criminal investigator of Maskouski rayon. The investigator was interested where Yuras had been on July 3-4, what information he had about the blast, he took his finger-prints and a sample of his saliva. This is the tenth time during the election campaign when Karetnikau’s dactylogram is taken, and the 2nd time his saliva sample is taken. Let us remind the readers, on July 16th Yuras Karetnikau was detained as a suspect in the blast case and was kept in KGB investigation center. He managed to prove he had no relation to the explosion: from June 29th to July 6th he was abroad.
Early campaigning continues
…in state mass media
Vitebsk newspaper Vitbichi (# 92 of August 12th, 2008) published an article about Aliaksandar Lasiakin, who is going to run to the parliament in Vitebsk-Kastrychnitskaya district # 20. The very headline: “We’ll Do Everything, No Problem!” is nothing else but the election pledge Aliaksandar Lasiakin.
Early campaigning in mass media was registered in Orsha, Baranavichy, Barysau, Mahiliou, Hrodna, and other cities.
In the hall of Hrodna drive shaft plant posters of incumbent MP Siarhei Maskevich are posted. Maskevich is going to run in Hrodna Centralnaya district # 50. The posters call on voters to vote for Maskevich and include his picture and bio information.
…during field trips
Siarhei Siamashka is running in Vitebsk-Chyhunachnay district # 19. He is campaigning using his mandate of an incumbent MP. As an a MP he has a public reception office. This week he began to organize the so-called “field receptions of citizens”: on August 12th – in Vitebsk branch of Belsuviazstroi enterprise, on August 13th – in the office of utility services company of Chyhunachny rayon of Vitebsk, on Agust 18th he will meet the voters in gymnasia # 6, on August 19th – in secondary school # 7, and on August 20th – in secondary school # 8. S. Siamashka has not been so active since 2004.
Early agitation is only “collection and distribution of information”?
Karnei Piatrovich, observer from Baranavichy, made an inquiry about violation of the election law by newspaper Nash Krai which has already published several articles (on July 26th and July 31st) in support of incumbent MP A. Vankovich (runs in Baranavichy-Zakhodniaya district # 5). Head of the district election commission A. Rusenchyk replied, according to the Law “About press and other mass media”, “journalists have the right to collect and spread information, and censorship of media is not allowed”. The head of the commission expressed conviction that Nash Krai did not violate the Election Code, and the published materials were not promotional.
…but one can “collect and spread information…” only about pro-governmental candidates!
When independent newspaper Barysauskiya Naviny published an interview with its editor-in-chief Anatol Bukas, secretary of district election commission in Barysau city district # 63 Tatsiana Statsava demanded explanations about the publication on the phone. Tatsiana Stasava warned that the district commission would apply to the Observatory Council at the Central Election Commission. In her opinion, interview with the potential candidate published by Barysauskiya Naviny was early campaigning.
Quite an interesting situation: does the right to collection and distribution of information belong only to the “needed” candidates?
ADMINISTRATIVE RESOURCE DURING SIGNATURE COLLECTION
Pro-governmental contenders received much help with signature collection by heads of educational establishments. Teachers joined the large-scale campaign for filling in signature sheets in support of deputy CEO of “Integral” plant A. M. Kazlou (district # 97 in Minsk). In the College of Electronics (headed by V. M. Khasin) signatures for Kazlou were collected by force and during work time. The same happened in secondary school # 71, the administration of which ordered the staff to take their passports to work.
In secondary school # 54, which is located in Svislatskaya district in Minsk, the school’s counselor gave orders on the phone in quite an aggressive form about the ban to sign for UDF representative A. Dabravoski. In secondary school # 152 young teachers were forced to collect signatures for pro-governmental candidate Halina Mazurkevich.
Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections