No control over early voting
Early voting starts today in Belarus. Anyone can vote early in any of the five days which are left before September 28th. No documents proving that a person cannot vote on the Election Day are required.
On one hand, it is clear that early voting provides for an opportunity to vote for people who cannot go to the polls on September 28th. On the other hand, the system of early voting which exists in Belarus, provides for broad possibilities to manipulate with the votes. There are numerous examples when during the previous parliamentary election collective farmers were brought to polling stations on trucks, and students were forced to vote early.
That is why the opposition politicians proposed to reduce the term of early voting to three days, or to cancel early voting in general. Mikalai Lazavik, secretary of the Central Election Commission, is of the following opinion:
“In this case the opposition forces do not think about the people but think about themselves only. In the majority of democratic countries people can vote early during two or three weeks before the election. It is possible to vote as early as 1.5-2 months before the election in the United States. I should say, the last OSCE mission to the United States recommended they spread the practice of early voting. In our country the opposition forces think about themselves and not about the people. They do not think about broadening the rights and participation of people in the election process”.
In 1994, when the first president of the Republic of Belarus was elected, early voting was also practiced. However, at that time one needed to present documents that he or she had serious grounds to vote early. That rule was later abolished. The number of early voting participants began to grow rapidly, up to 20-30 % of all voters. This is the ground for doubts about early voting, -- lawyer and election expert Mikhail Pliska points out:
“From my point of view, negative attitude to early voting is not based on challenging its very existence. The matter is, there is no trust to formation of election commissions. There is no control over voting and keeping of ballot boxes during early voting. That is why the attitude to early voting is so negative.
In reality, early voting does exist in other countries. But is does not happen at polling stations (i.e. there are no polling stations where people could come and vote during five days). People vote by mail.”
In some countries people can cast their votes through Internet. No one is concerned about that because everyone is convinced that their votes cannot be manipulated. Besides that, it’s a lot cheaper. Mikhail Pliska mentions he has addressed CEC chair Lidziya Yarmoshyna with such a proposal because she often speaks about saving financial resources:
“A lot of money is spent on precinct election commissions. They keep them during five days, rent offices create many inconveniencies… If commissions were formed on a party basis or with participation of the opposition, I think no one would challenge early voting. Or if ballot boxes were guarded and everyone was sure that no one could do anything to them”.