Elections: analysis of the stage of registration of candidates
Human rights activists for free elections have analysed the stage of registration of candidates for deputies of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the fourth convocation.
According to Article 69 of the Constitution, the right to nominate candidates for deputies belongs to public associations, working collectives and citizens.
Nomination of candidates for deputies begins 70 days and ends 40 days before the election (Article 60 of the Electoral Code). According to the schedule of the organizational measures on preparation and holding of the elections to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the fourth convocation, nomination of candidates begins on 20 July and ends on 18 August.
Nomination of candidates for deputies is regulated by Articles 62, 63 and 65 of the Electoral Code.
Nomination of candidates for deputies to the Chamber of Representatives on behalf of political parties is performed by the supreme organs of the political parties provided that an organizational structure of the appropriate political party that has been established according to the legal order before the beginning of the elections, exists on the territory of the electoral constituency for which the candidate is nominated. The political party has the right to nominate only one its member as candidate to the Chamber of Representatives at each electoral circuit.
Nomination of candidates for deputies of the Chamber of Representatives from the working collectives of organizations is performed at the assemblies (conferences) of electors in working collectives.
The assemblies (conferences) of electors in the working collectives of the organizations which are situated on the territory of the appropriate electoral constituencies and have not less than 300 persons, are working and have the right of juridical body, can be summonsed by their administrations, both on their own initiative, or on the initiative of groups of at least 150 electors who work in the appropriate organization.
The presence of more than a half of the working collective is required for legitimacy of an assembly. Conferences are held in the working collectives in the cases when it is too difficult to summon assemblies because of a large number of workers, multi-shift work or territorial scattering of the structural subdivisions, and are legitimate in the case of presence of at least two thirds of the delegates who are elected in conformity with the order established by this working collective. The decision of the assembly (conference) of a working collective is adopted by the majority of votes of its participants.
A working collective can nominate only one candidate for deputy of the Chamber of Representatives.
Nomination of a candidate to the Chamber of Representatives by collection of signatures of electors is performed by a group of at least ten electors, also called ‘initiative group’. The list of the members of the initiative group with specifying its head and the appeal for registration of the group are submitted to the appropriate electoral commission not later than 65 days before the election by the person who intends to be nominated as a candidate for deputy.
The person who is proposed for being registered as a candidate to the Chamber of Representatives must be supported by at least 1 000 electors who live on the territory of the appropriate electoral constituency.
Registration of candidates begins 40 days and ends 30 days before the election.
In certain cases the term of registration of candidates to the Chamber of Representatives can be extended by a motivated decision of the Central electoral commission, but not for more than five days.
The decision on registration of a candidate is adopted in the case he/she presented to the appropriate electoral commission all necessary documents before the beginning of registration. Any number of candidates for deputies is admitted to registration.
A candidate for deputy can run only at one electoral constituency. In the case a deputy is nominated at several electoral constituencies he/she must inform the appropriate electoral commission about his/her intention to run at one particular electoral constituency and refusal to run at the rest not later than three days after the end of nomination of candidates for deputies. Non-implementation of this requirement is a reason why a candidate may be denied registration as candidate by all electoral constituencies. The statement about refusal to run is submitted only to those electoral commissions to which the documents for nomination as a candidate for deputy were presented.
Having verified the compliance of the order of the candidate’s nomination with the requirements of the Electoral Code, the constituency electoral commission takes decision on his/her registration.
In the case of registration the constituency electoral commission composes a minutes. The minutes on registration of candidates for deputies together with the copies of their statements about agreement to run at the electoral constituency, the biographical information of the persons who have been nominated as candidates for deputies, their income and assets declarations are submitted to the Central electoral commission. The originals of these documents are to be kept at the constituency electoral commission. If the members of the constituency electoral commissions have any private opinions concerning registration of candidates for deputies, these opinions must be attached to the minutes on registration of the candidates which is passed to the Central electoral commission.
Within two-days’ term after registration the constituency electoral commission issues to the candidates for deputies the appropriate certificates.
Not later than on the fourth day after registration of candidates for deputies the constituency electoral commission publicizes the information on their registration including their surnames, names and patronymic names, the dates of birth, the professions, official positions, the places of work and residence and the party affiliation with the aid of press or informs about it the electors in any other way.
Nomination and registration of candidates for deputies
According to the information of the Central commission on elections and holding of republican referenda, 365 persons were nominated as candidates for deputies of the Chamber of Representatives and 276 of them were registered as candidates for deputies.
119 of them were nominated by collection of signatures, 96 – in a double way (by collection of signatures and by assemblies of working collectives), 20 – by citizens and political parties, 4 – in a triple way (by citizens, parties and working collectives), 11 – by working collectives and 26 – by political parties.
84 potential candidates (23% of the total number of those who were nominated) were denied registration.
The majority of representatives of the United democratic forces, nominated in different ways, were registered. 76 out of 98 UDF candidates (77,5% of the total number) were registered. 23 out of 51 representatives of the European Coalition (45%) were registered. Thus, 99 out of 149 persons nominated by democratic forces (66,5%) were registered. At the parliamentary election 2004 only 126 out of 227 representatives of the democratic coalition 5+ (about 55%) were registered.
This time the electoral commissions registered as candidates 26 out of 29 representatives of the United Civil Party, 16 out of 21 representatives of the Belarusian Popular Front Party, 13 out of 18 representatives of the Party of Communists Belarusian, 11 out of 14 representatives of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), 8 out of 9 representatives of the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus, 3 out of 5 representatives of the Republican party of labor and justice and the only representative of the Agrarian Party.
50 out of 56 persons who were nominated by assemblies of parties were registered as candidates by the electoral commissions.
The leaders of the Belarusian Popular Front Party Viktar Ivashkevich and Vintsuk Viachorka were not registered as candidates.
58 persons (21% from the total number of the registered candidates) are women, 18 (6,5%) are under 30 years old and 38 (13,8%) are deputies of the present parliament.
The elections are already non-alternative at 12 electoral constituencies: Navapolatsk constituency #25 (the only candidate is I.Antonava, the headmaster of Navapolatsk central children’s hospital), Rahachou constituency #45 (the head of the housing economy of Homel oblast executive committee U.Mikhasiou), Pinsk-village constituency #15 (the director general of the open stock company Pinsksauhasbud K.Sheuchyk), Vaukavysk constituency #48 (the head of Zelva district executive committee L.Eljiashevich), Masty constituency #56 (the first deputy head of Hrodna oblast executive committee U.Stsiapura), Navahrudak constituency #57 (the director of the breeding plant Karelichy Filip Bohush), Maladechna-village constituency #71 (Uladzimir Siniakou, the head of the main department of personnel policy of the administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus), Ivatsevichy constituency #11 (the director general of the housing economy of Ivatsevichy L.Kavalevich), Smarhon constituency #59 (the deputy of the Chamber of Representatives Tatsiana Holubeva), Shchuchyn constituency #60 (the deputy head of Hrodna oblast executive committee Maryia Birukova), Barysau constituency #63 (the director general of the republican Unitarian enterprise Barysaukhlebpram Vasil Huryianau), Niasvizh constituency #72 (the director of the secondary school of the village of Shepichy (Kletsk district) Alena Novik).
Closeness of sittings of electoral commissions
In the majority of cases the sitting of the constituency electoral commissions on checking up of the nominees’ income and assets declarations and the lists with signatures in support of their registration of the as candidates were held without inviting the registered observers. The constituency commissions answered to oral and written appeals of the observers for admission to such sittings with refusals and told that the observers would be invited to the sittings on registration of candidates for deputies.
Usage of administrative resource
The number of candidates nominated by working collectives considerably decreased in comparison to the parliamentary elections 2004. Instead, observers registered an extensive use of administrative pressurization during collection of signatures for pro-regime candidates. Signatures for them were collected even by the persons who were not registered as members of their teams. In particular, according to the information of observer Ya.Parchynski, the head of the curriculum department of school #18 in Polatsk Iryna Zimnitskaya said that her school had been ordered to collect at least 200 signatures in support of the deputy head of Vitsebsk oblast executive committee P.Yuzhyk. The school teachers were threatened to be deprived of the wage bonuses otherwise. The head of Hlybokaye district archive ordered his subordinates to collect at least 30 signatures each in support of the head of Vitsebsk oblast executive committee U.Andreichanka.
Election observers also report about early agitation of pro-regime pretenders for candidates. Thereto they used various kinds of meetings with working collectives, dwellers of towns and villages, reception of citizens on different problems and issues and publication of articles in the state press.
The head of Hrodna city executive committee Alexander Antonenka, who is running at Hrodna Zaniomanskaya electoral constituency #49, decided to meet with citizens of Hrodna at the office of housing economy #20, which is situated on the territory of this electoral constituency. It was presented as his meeting with citizens of Hrodna. However, Antonenka never demonstrated such initiative before the beginning of the elections. That’s why the observers regard this meeting as early agitation.
On 1 August in Shchuchyn electoral constituency #60 a meeting of workers of the open stock company Vasilishki with the head of Hrodna oblast executive committee M.Birukova, who was nominated as a candidate there, was organized. In addition, issue #61 of the state newspaper Svitanak for 5 August 2008 contained an article about Birukova entitled: ‘There must be only worthy people in the parliament!’
The state press often published materials which can be considered as early agitation for pro-governmental candidates. In particular, issue #92 of the newspaper Svitanak (18 August 2008) contains an article about the deputy of a deputy of the Chamber of Representatives Aleh Vialichka, the head of the commission on health care, physical culture and the affairs of families and youth. Mr. Vialichka is running for another term. The article is entitled: To be able to see the horizon… is tendentiously eulogistic. ‘At present this man is doubtlessly known to all country…’, writes the author. ‘He keeps his hand on the pulse of the spheres of life that concern everyone’. Another article about Vialichka, Responsible for people’s life, was published in Brestskaya Hazeta, issue #34 for 22 August 2008, in the column Most valuable.
Pressurization of members of candidates’ teams
There were registered many cases when members of the initiative groups of democratic candidates were pressurized with the aim to make them stop collecting signatures. For this sake they authorities used the explosion in Minsk which had taken place on 4 July 2008. In particular, Kanstantsin Zhukouski, nominated as a candidate at Buda-Kashaliova electoral constituency #38, addressed the procuracy with a complaint against the actions of the police officers of Tsentralny district police department of Homel. ‘The members of my initiative group Siarhei Tryfanau and Maryia Tulzhankova are pressurized,’ stated Zhukouski. On 24 July Tryfanau received several calls from the police department. The policemen invited him to a conversation concerning the blast which had taken place in the night of 3-4 July in Minsk. When he refused to come to them without an official writ, they started threatening to him and stated that he was summonsed to the police department as an accused. Similar calls were received by Maryia Tulzhankova. Siarhei Tryfanau also addressed the police to get the guilty policemen punished.
There were also cases when electors were pressurized after signing for a democratic candidate. For instance, on 20 August 2008 the headmaster of Dobrush hospital Ala Maskalenka summonsed to her office the nurses who had signed in support of an oppositional activist Adam Varanets. During the conversation with them she said that nurses mustn’t sign in support of oppositional candidates. Secret services, administrations of state institutions and enterprises and law-enforcement agencies pressurized members of the initiative groups of democratic candidates everywhere.
Unidentified persons in civvies made several attempts to take photos of Lidziya Karpovich while she was collecting signatures in support of I.Valiayeu in Navapolatsk electoral constituency #17. She was threatened with court persecution and eviction from the hostel where she lived with her under-aged children. As a result she had to refuse from membership in the candidate’s team.
On 27 July in Ushachy the police detained the members of Ya.Bernikovich’s initiative group Volha Damaskina and Aliaksei Trubkin. The policemen motivated the detention by saying that the number of thefts from people’s apartments in this location had increased recently. The detainees’ passport data were put down.
In the midst of the electoral campaign repressions were applied towards a pretender for candidate at electoral constituency #19 Andrei Levinau, a local police inspector of Chyhunachny district police department of Vitsebsk. The procuracy started a duty investigation against him. The head of Chyhunachny district police department of Vitsebsk, lieutenant colonel Blazhevich, the deputy head of the police department, major Tychak and the deputy head of Vitsebsk oblast prophylaxis department, lieutenant colonel Pranko threatened to Levinau and demanded that he resigned from police. There was even staged a provocation: that the pretender for candidate allegedly fought with his colleague. As a result Andrei Levinau was fired from the police on the initiative of the head of the district police department, colonel L.Farmahei.
At the same time, the observers noticed that in Hrodna oblast the registered initiative groups of oppositional candidates faced almost no obstacles while collecting signatures. It was the first time for the recent years when they could collect signatures outdoors in Hrodna and other towns and cities.
The initiative groups actively used this opportunity and organized street stations on previous agreement of the constituency electoral commissions and district police departments. On the other hand, the work of the initiative groups of oppositional politicians on collection of signatures was constantly watched by the police, KGB, representatives of district executive commissions and constituency electoral commissions, who thoroughly checked the documents of the members of the initiative groups who were collecting signatures.
But cases of pressurization of democratic nominees were registered even in Hrodna oblast. The police detained a pretender for candidate Yury Istomin, the head of Hrodna oblast organization of the United Civil Party. According to Istomin, on 18 August 2008, the last day when the documents for registration as candidate could be passed, his initiative group was collecting signatures in his support in the town of Navahradak. The activists were watched by the police. When they finished collecting signatures and gathered to check them up and pass for registration, they were detained by the police and guarded to the local police department. There they were told that the initiative group of Yury Istomin was dealing with early agitation. The police officers did not manage to answer the question who and when had empowered the police to decide what could be considered as early agitation. Nevertheless, they demanded that the detainees wrote written explanations. Istomin and his initiative group were released only at about 7 pm, when no time was left for the candidate to check the signatures and file the documents for registration. Later Istomin learned that the procuracy of Navahradak district brought a criminal case against him for alleged violation of the electoral legislation. According to the procuracy, Istomin violated the electoral laws by handing out the copies of the newspaper Narodnaya Volia with an article about him. In addition, Navahradak district executive committee sent a letter to the UCP administration in which it was written that after the detention Istomin had allegedly had some time for passing the documents to the appropriate electoral commission, but did not do it.
The consideration of the pretenders’ complaints against registration denials has started on 3 September. After its end there will appear new information about the number of the registered candidates and the reasons for registration denials.