Executive committees disdain principles of openness and transparency
All election commissions have been formed. Human rights defenders point out, the process was closed for the public – all over the country observers were simply not admitted to the sessions of the executive bodies of power. It was also impossible to look through the documents about nomination of representatives to commissions. For instance, Hrodna rayon executive committee sent an official response to observer Mikola Voran, who had requested an opportunity to get acquainted with minutes of the sessions of NGOs and political parties and meetings of work collectives nominating representatives to commissions, and with signatures collected in support of such nominations. In the official reply he read that “observers are not entitled to that”.
Observer Raman Yurhel, BHC representative, was also deprived of an opportunity to attend the session of the presidium of Hrodna oblast council and oblast executive committee which formed district commissions. He had sent an inquiry to Ms. Yarmoshyna and received her response two day ago. In the official letter Yarmoshyna explained the observer that the election law did not regulate the order of holding sessions of representative and executive bodies and did not stipulate for sending observers there. She also explained she had no competence to take any measures against Hrodna oblast executive committee. This way, Ms. Yarmoshyna has confirmed the fact that the Belarusian legislation does not provide for an opportunity of presence of observers during forming of commissions, which are very significant stages of the election.
Let’s turn to Article 13 of the Election Code. Really, the list of observer’s rights does not include the right to attend sessions of bodies that create commissions. However, part 1 of the Article states that “preparation and holding of elections should be done openly and transparently”. Part 2 of the Article obliges the appropriate commissions, local representative, executive and administrative bodies to inform citizens about their work of preparing and holding elections. That is why the law can be interpreted in different ways. However, the executive authorities continue to insist on their understanding of the principles of openness and transparency of the election process and of observers’ rights.
This can be seen very well from the letter of A. Drako, chair of Slutsk rayon executive committee, to observer Vital Amialkovich, who on August 15th was not admitted to joint session of the executive committee with the leadership of the newly-created precinct commissions (the observer left a note in the complaint book). In his letter the chair of the executive committee revealed his understanding of the principle of transparency: “responding to the complaint you left in the complaint book of Slutsk executive committee on August 15th, 2008, we inform you that with the purpose to provide for transparency during elections to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of teh fourth convocation you have the rights of an observer, accredited by district commission of Slutsk election district # 74”. Period. Openness and transparency seem not to be spread on anything else.
Meanwhile, administrations of Leninski and Kastrychnitski rayons of Hrodna name other reasons why it is unlawful to provide documents on creation of precinct election commissions to observers. The reason is contained in the official response received by observer Sviatlana Rudkouskaya. Leninski rayon administration of Hrodna replied, teh documents demanded by teh observer, contain personal information about nominees. That is why they, as a state institution, do not have the right to open such documents for public inspection. Observer Raman Yurhel received a similar response from Kastrychnitski rayon administration of Hrodna. They also pointed out, under clause 69 of Article 11 of the Regulations of the work of rayon administration of December 29th, 2007, such documents “are to be provided for inspection to staff of the apparatus, and heads of structural units of the administration”. In addition, what kind of “personal information” is contained in the nomination documents, which is not compatible with the transparency of the election process?
Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections