Past week of the electoral campaign: events and generalizations

2008 2008-09-05T21:07:42+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The main events this week were the beginning of the agitation campaign of candidates for deputies and the consideration by the Central electoral commission of the complaints of the people who had not been registered as candidates. After the CEC considered the complaints, eight more candidates were registered.

Bear in mind that in reality the agitation campaign has been started only by democratic candidates, because pro-governmental ones started it several months ago. At the same time, the top level state officials state that there exist equal conditions for all candidates.

Formal obstacles for registration as candidates

On 3-4 September the Central commission on elections and holding of republican referenda considered the complaints of the persons who had not been registered as candidates by constituency electoral commissions. All in all, there were 53 such complaints: 7 came from Mahiliou oblast, 8 – from Hrodna oblast, 5 from Homel oblast, 5 from Minsk oblast, 4 from Brest oblast, 3 from Vitsebsk oblast and 20 from Minsk. Having considered the complaints, the CEC ruled to register eight MP candidates: Iryna Yasevich (Vitsebsk-Chkalauskaya constituency #18), Mikhail Silivonets (Zhytkavichy constituency #32), Yury Rubtsou (Homel-Savetskaya constituency #34), Ivan Shcharbakou, Alexander Bukas (Barysau constituency #62), Volha Shokhanava (Autazavadskaya constituency #92, Minsk), Uladzimir Navasiad (Svislachskaya constituency #94, Minsk), Vasil Karankevich (Homel-Savetskaya constituency #34).

Thus, now there are 284 registered candidates, among them 79 representatives of the United Democratic Forces, out of 365 applicants (five people withdrew).

Among those who were denied registration there well-known political activists Vintsuk Viachorka, Mikalai Statkevich, Viktar Ivashkevich, Siarhei Salash, Yury Karetnikau and others.

The most common grounds for refusal of registration were improper information in income and assets declarations and invalid signatures in the signature lists. An income and assets declaration could be found invalid if an old car, a bike or a trailer, given on trust 10 years ago, but still registered in traffic police, had not been mentioned. Signatures were commonly found invalid when signature sheets contained signatures of people leaving in different city districts, or signature lists were authorized by a wrong executive committee.

Observing the consideration of complaints by the Central election commission, the chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Aleh Hulak noted that shortcomings of the election laws were revealed during the consideration: ‘The majority of refusals of registration have formal grounds. It is obvious, that many procedures of candidates registration present formal obstacles, that have no relation to ensuring of the right to vote and the right to be elected,’ he said.

Equality of candidates is a mere formality too

On 3 September the headmaster of gymnasium #4 of Vitsebsk organized and held an electoral meeting of the parents of the gymnasium’s pupils with a pro-regime candidate Siarhei Siamashka, who runs at Vitsebsk Chyhunachnaya electoral constituency #19. The gymnasium hall was overcrowded.

Siarhei Siamashka delivered his speech to the people present. Siamaska’s rival, former policeman Andrei Levinau, was also present at the meeting, but was not given an opportunity to hold a speech. The headmaster explained that he had received a telephone call concerning Siamashka, but had not received a call concerning Levinau. He refused to explain who called to him and why.

Meetings with pro-regime candidates are often organized in the working time. Such cases have been already registered in Polastk, Babruisk, Miyory and other towns and cities of Belarus.

For instance, the workers of the budget sector of the settlement of Vetryna (situated on the territory of Miyory electoral constituency #24) were insistently advised to come to the meeting with a pro-regime candidate to the parliament on 3 September at 3 p.m.

When the teachers of the local artistic school asked what they should do with the classes for which the pupils’ parents paid monthly fees, the local authorities answered that the classes could be cancelled or postponed, but the meeting should be attended at any cost.

A similar situation could be observed in Polatsk. On 2 September at 3 pm a candidate for deputy at Polatsk city electoral constituency #28 Piatro Yuzhyk (deputy head of Vitsebsk oblast executive committee) had a meeting with the electorate at the open stock company Shklovalakno. According to the information received from workers of the enterprise, the workers of two shifts were made to come to the enterprise hall. Organization of such meetings in the working time is a violation of the electoral laws of Belarus.

The announcement about the meeting read that the entrance was free. Nevertheless, neither journalist Shchukin, nor Yuzhyk’s rival at this constituency Albert Markau (member of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) were let in by the janitor.

Pretensions to agitation leaflets

The head of the production department of Vitsebsk state printing house refused to print agitation leaflets for a candidate from the United democratic forces Tatsiana Seviarynets who is running at Vitsebsk-Horki electoral constituency #17, because of the ‘wrong’ orthography.

Mrs. Seviarynets explained that he read and wrote according to the tradition of Nasha Niva newspaper, but agreed to correction of her leaflets in conformity with the present official orthography of the Belarusian language.

Soon after this she received a call from the printing house. This time the head of the production department had pretensions to the content of the leaflet. She expressed doubts concerning the number of divorces and dipsomaniacs in Belarus, which were presented in the leaflet.

Finally the official said she needed to ‘consult’ with someone before printing the leaflets and promised to inform the candidate about the results of the ‘consultation’ the following day.

The head of constituency electoral commission #81 in Horki criticized the electoral program of a candidate from the Belarusian Popular Front Party. She said that his wish to return social guarantees to the population was fomentation of social enmity. She also said that the candidate’s wish to prevent the construction of a nuclear power plant in Horki was wrong, because such a station would never explode and the BPF just lied to the population that there was a possibility of it happening.

Calls for early voting

On 4 September a state newspaper Narodnaye Slova, founded by Vitsebsk oblast soviet of deputies and Vitsebsk oblast executive committee, called on the electorate to vote early, from 23to 27 September.

Another oblastal newspaper, Vitsebski Rabochy, founded by Vitsebsk oblast executive committee, also called for early voting in its 102nd issue on 4 September.

The oblastal radio calls for early voting without giving any reasons, the campaign Human Rights Activists for Free Election reports.

On 2 September calls for early voting could be heard at an enlarged sitting of the veterans of the oblast, pro-presidential associations of the Communist Party of Belarus, the ‘state NGOs’ Belaya Rus and Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM), trade unions, the association of former minor prisoners and the Belarusian Peace Foundation. It is a broad layer of electorate, veterans alone amount to 350.000 in the oblast.

Human rights activists for free elections