Pre-election campaigning. Monitoring: results and conclusions
Human rights defenders traced carrying out of a stage of pre-election campaign within the limits of long-term monitoring of elections. According to the Planned schedule of organizational actions for preparations to elections and elections of the deputies of the Chamber of Representatives of National meeting of Belarus fourth convocation, pre-election campaign began at the moment of registration of candidates and proceeded on till September, 27 2008.
Chapter 10 of the Electoral code of Belarus regulates the order of carrying out of the pre-election campaign.
According to the item 45 of the Electoral code citizens, political parties, other public associations, labour collectives, authorized representatives of candidates, initiative groups who are conducting agitation for election of candidates, shall be granted with a right of free and all-round discussion of electoral programs of candidates, their political, business and personal qualities, to conduct campaign for or against the candidate at meetings, gatherings, in mass media, and also during meetings with voters.
Candidates hold meetings with constituents at convocations or in other convenient for voters form. Local executive and administrative bodies under the agreement with relevant electoral commissions assign the rooms for meeting of the candidates with voters, information of which should be published in local press or carried out to voters in other possible ways. Granting of other premises for the indicated purposes can be carried out by chiefs of the organizations at the desire of candidates or their authorized representatives. Other rooms for such purposes can be granted by the heads of the organizations under the candidates` request or under their representatives` request. Such rooms must be granted for free, on equal terms as sequence of receipt of references.
Meetings outside of the rooms, demonstrations and other mass actions which purpose is to realize the pre-election campaign, propagandas on a referendum, deputy withdraw, are carried out according to the legislation of the Republic of Belarus on mass actions.
District election committees inform voters about date, time and a place of carrying out of meetings of candidates with voters in local press or in a different way.
Candidates to the deputies have the right to manufacturing of pre-election posters, slogans, statements, inscriptions, leaflet, photographic materials (hereinafter - posters). For the payment of posters’ manufacturing to the candidate for the deputies of the Chamber of Representatives is given from the budget the assets at the amount 50 basic values. Expenses for these purposes are carried out at the expense of the assets given from the republican budget to preparation and holding the elections. It is not allowed to use expenses of candidates, authorized representatives, political parties, other public associations, the organizations, citizens on manufacturing of pre-election posters.
At holding elections of deputies the relevant commission publishes common posters with bibliographic information about the candidates for candidates to the deputies balloting in one election district for placing at the voting stations and in other established places. Expenses for these purposes are carried out at the expense of the assets given from the republican budget to preparation and holding the elections.
At holding of elections local executive and administrative bodies, as agreed with respective commissions, allocate in the territory of the precinct places most frequently attended by citizens for arrangement of agitation printed materials. At the same time, Electoral code provides that executive and administrative bodies can prohibit locating of the agitation printing material in places not designed for it.
At all precincts not later than 14 days before the elections stands with information materials about candidates shall be arranged. Stands with such information materials are preserved in rooms for voting on the day of elections too.
Agitation (including appeals to boycott the elections) on the ballot day shall not be allowed. Agitation printed materials displayed earlier outside the rooms for voting shall remain in their former places.
Item 46 of the Electoral code guarantee equal rights on using the state-run mass media for candidates, political parties, other public associations, labour collectives, citizens who have nominated candidates from the time of registration of candidates.
The state-run mass media, mass media partially funded from the state budget, as well as mass media, one of the founders of which are state bodies or organizations, are obliged to provide equal capabilities for pre-electoral statements of candidates.
Candidate for the deputy of the Chamber of Representatives has the right to publish in the mass media his electoral program in volume of up to two printed pages, having presented the text of the above program not later than 20 days before the elections.
Candidates for deputies of the Chamber of Representatives shall have the right of charge-free presentations on the state television, as well as on radio broadcasting. Thus the law demands, that broadcasting time shall fall on the period, when TV and radio programs collect the greatest audience.
In the period of propaganda a unified day of political informing was hold in the country . The theme of which was: "The political and socially-economic situation in Belarus on the eve of parliamentary elections". In materials by the unified day of political informing, the state bodies underlined at the websites the importance of carrying out of parliamentary elections in the country. Value of representatives of opposition and their activity —is reserved negative (the attention is paid to a low rating of representatives of opposition among people). The basic importance is given to the factor of continuity of stability in the state.
According to the law, candidates had an opportunity to appear with the programs on defined tele-and radio channels, to print programs in the established size in the state newspapers. By the estimations of media experts, performances of candidates were broadcasted in a very inconvenient time. Later, on request of observers, teleperformances of candidates were broadcasted repeatedly under the Central Electoral Committee decision.
Official mass-media have published decisions of local authorities «About an establishment of places where the pre-election materials to elections in the Chamber of Representatives of National meeting of the Republic of Belarus could be placed» and «About definition of premises for meetings of candidates of the Chamber of Representatives of National meeting of the Republic of Belarus with voters».
According to an estimation of observers, in the majority of regions, such decisions on allocation of special places for placing propaganda materials, as a rule, do not give candidates sufficient possibilities for propaganda. Only one place is allocated for a site only, that is obviously insufficient. Use of the areas in the shops, at the enterprises and establishments require the coordination with their heads, that also complicates propaganda.
Observers of the Brest- Zapadni district № 1 and Brest-Vostochni election district № 3 noticed, that, according to the list of places for placing propaganda materials, which was confirmed on August 21 by the Administrations of Lenin and Moscow areas of Brest, these places are supposed to be polling districts. As a rule one additional place is derived in shop.
In a number of settlements of Belovezhski election district № 8 (Кamenec, Visokoe and others) observers have not found any specially equipped information stands for the pre-election materials of candidates. Such stands are not specified in the ordinance from August, 19 of the executive committee of Kamenetski district. Candidate of Belovezhski election district № 8 V.Lazorenkov made an inquiry to get the information of places where there were equipped stands, but neither the chairman, nor members of the district selective commission, nor the responsible person of district executive committee I.Nigerish could give exactly information.
Places for candidate’s meetings with voters
Determination of places for candidate’s meetings with voters has not created necessary conditions to candidates for wide campaign expansion.
For example, three premises for candidate’s meetings with voters, which are practically in city centre, (City House of Culture, cinema "Victory" and a recreation centre "Trikotazhnik") have been defined by Pinsk city election district № 14. Places for meetings are not allocated in such occupied areas of a city as the Zapadni microraion, area of Rokossovski and Кleschev streets, area of city hospital and park. According to observers, such situation can be a real barrier for meetings candidates’ meeting with voters. Besides, two premises which are allocated for meetings in Pinsk rural election district № 15, are nearby Pinsk city election district № 14, that can also serve as the factor of complication of propaganda.
An active work was done by the deputy of Luninetsk election district № 13, deputy of the Chamber of Representatives of the third convocation candidate L.Vershilovich in the beginning of the propaganda campaign. Meetings with her participation passed at many enterprises and town establishments which were promoted by the city authorities. However to the middle of the propaganda period all three candidates of Luninetsk election district № 13 have equal possibilities for meetings with voters in establishments and at the city enterprises. In the beginning of the propaganda period the city authorities promoted the organisation of meetings with voters to the candidate Z.Mandrovskaya of Pinsk city election district № 14. On September, 3 meeting with voters of the uniform candidate of the the UDF party from PCB, 03.09.2008 Evgenie Perts, have been forbidden twice by Pinsk authorities: sport centre DOSAAF assembly hall, in shop “Rassvet”. In the middle of the propaganda period all three candidates of Pinsk city election district № 14 as observers inform, had equal possibilities to meet voters in establishments ,at the city enterprises and at schools at parental meetings.
Propaganda through using the state-run mass media
The state-run mass media actively informed voters about the activity of the separate candidates who work on the state posts, actually carrying out the latent propaganda.
Laudatory articles about activity of PO "BRUY", Slutsk committee of this organisation and about its first secretary Kleshchuk Inessa were regularly published in the state newspaper of Slutsk election district №74 - "Slutski krai"( July, 29t; August, 12, 25; September, 2 ,19). These materials have started to appear before the official registration of I.Kleshchuk as the candidate. In the articles there is information about I.Kleshchuk, her comments of those or other events, pictures of her. In this occasion observers have made complaints to the newspapers’ edition of Slutsk district executive committee upon propaganda before official registration. And have got the answer that there were no any breaks of the electoral law in the given cases.
A big publication under the name “Love people- it’ll repay” in a heading "To Supervise - not hands to drive" was published in the Political newspaper of the Brest area "Zarya" (№ 84 July, 31) about the applicant for the candidate mandate of Pinsk city election district № 14, director of PUC "ElKis" Open Company "BelТIZ" Zynaida Mandrovskaya".
“Pinsk bulletin "(№ 58 July, 29) has printed article under the name" Collective as an amicable family" about congratulations of trade workers addressed to Z. Mandarovskaya. As she is the deputy of city council of People's Deputies , she often appears on pages of the regional press, as for example, in a material about arrival of delegation of Krasnogvardeisk area of St.-Petersburg to Pinsk ("Pinsk bulletin ", № 66 August, 26). In the beginning of academic year such newspapers as "Pinsk bulletin "(№ 67, № 68)," Polessie pravda "(№ 71) consisted of articles of Z.Mandrovskaya activity in an education sphere: her performance at city meeting of teachers, participation in opening of a city museum of mother. It was written a lot about Z.Mandrovskaya as a candidate. According to observers, at city meeting of teachers the management of the CITY BOARD of education applied to the teachers with the request to support Z.Mandrovskaya on elections.
The Political newspaper of Pinsk area " Polessie pravda " (№ 61 August, 6) in a heading "People of the Polessie land " gives an article about the potential candidate of Pinsk rural district № 15 Konstantin Shevchik (№ 62 August, 9). The whole block of materials under the name "to Live to build, and to build, to live" is written about the activity of employees of trust "Pinsksovhozstroi" (under the guidance of K.Shevchik). The same articles were printed the same day in the newspaper "Zarya" (№ 88 September, 9).
Also the state-run mass-media negatively submitted the information about opposition parties and candidates.
The activity of the opponents of the power.s negatively described in the article "Choice of Parris" ("Zarya" № 97 August, 30).
Surnames of the concrete candidates were not called, only surnames of leaders were caled with whom this or that party associates: Z.Poznyak, S.Shushkevich, A.Lebedko. The newspaper "Slonimsk bulletin" (№ 107 September, 17) places a material under the name "Opposition parties are politically insolvent".
The edition of propaganda materials
Some oppositional candidates have faced barriers at the edition of propaganda materials.
Soligorsk newspaper "Saper" denied the candidate of Soligorsk election district №76 Nasanovich Larissa in publication of her propaganda materials. The question has been solved after intervention of the chairman of the district commission Yakimovich Michael. The situation has been provoked by the performance of L. Nasarovich on radio "Stolitca" on August, 17. She has informed the public that Kaptsevitskaya Olga ,the editor-in-chief of the newspaper executive committee of Soligorsk district "Saper" , made actions which are qualified as theft by abusing office position. The editor has been involved in the criminal liability, thus has not been removed from the post , and continue working, revenging those who complained her. (The resonance of speech of L.Nasanovich has led to expected removal O. Kaptsevitskaya of the post on the second day after performance of the candidate on radio).
Observers notice that censorship of propaganda materials of candidates was used less than during previous campaigns. However such facts were also fixed.
There were attempts of printing house during the seal of propaganda materials to clean in propaganda leaflets of the candidate of Slutsk election district №74 - Jurevich Anatolii , an inscription "Vote only on September, 28!". Nevertheless the given inscription could be found on A.Jurevich's pre-election propaganda leaflet not without the aid of the chairman of the district selective commission Andrushkevich Alexander.
During the recording of teleperformance of candidate A.Jurevich, an unknown person who was adduced as employee of Belteleradiokompaniya presented there. He asked to familiarize with the performance text, and after viewing asked to change the text in some places . The candidate refused to change the text.
The newspaper "Vechernii Brest" refused to place an electoral program of the candidate Anatolii Levkovich with reference to infringement of the item 47 of the Electoral code of the Republic of Belarus, according to which propaganda materials and performances of candidates should not contain insults and slander concerning officials and candidates. According to the assistant of the editor-in-chief of the newspaper B.Pavlovskii, the resulted lines from A.Levkovicha's program fall under action of item 47 of the Electoral code, offending other candidate on the Brest-Zapadni election district № 1: "I ask my competitor O.Velichko: whose will he executed, voting for cancellation of social privileges to millions Belarus citizens? Whether he consulted with the voters?". Such interdictions seriously limit possibilities for criticism of operating members of parliament.
Observers notice, that in practice the majority of oppositional candidates received the possibility to extend the party propaganda materials freely, including street actions, and even when such actions were spent without preliminary reception of permissions.
Carrying out «a round table» by the state newspaper "Vechernii Brest" with the participation of all candidates from Brest on September, 19 – is a positive fact. Before the publish of propaganda materials, the candidates from the the UDF party I.Maslovsky and A.Levkovich were given a chance to familiarize with editorial editing. Both candidates from the UDF party consider, that their performances were not exposed to censorship. Discussion materials are published by September, 26 in quantity of 30 000 copies.
Extramural debate of the candidates was spent by the Baranovichi not state newspaper "Intex-press" (№ 38 September,18). The candidate from the power of Baranovichski-Zapadnii election district №5 Vankovich Anatoly has refused to participate in debate.
Placing of propaganda materials
Some oppositional candidates have been laid down in unequal conditions at placing of propaganda materials. Propaganda through printing propaganda materials among election districts was spent with the use of an administrative resource. Proimperious candidates had all possibilities to hang out the pre-election posters in populous public places: shops, official bodies, the enterprises. For example, in Grodno-Severnii election district №51 managers of the shops, drugstores, post offices where propaganda posters of the candidate from power Marina Remsh have been hung out in the centralised order, only after long consultations with the heads have agreed to hang out corresponding posters of Yaroslav Romanchuk. And here the and has not given J.Romanchuku to such possibility, having referred that staff Романчука should give them any. But such possibility was not given to Y. Romanchuk by the administration of the market "Crown". Furthermore, they required from the candidate’s staff a special permission of the administration of Lenin area of Grodno.
Observers of BHC fixed cases when during preschedule voting there were no posters on sites with the information about some candidates. In Minsk-Vostochnii election district №107 there are general posters with the information about all candidates on all polling districts. Posters from candidates are not available on all sites: there are no posters about the candidate Busko V. on 28 of 39 sites , on 17 - about candidate Kavalchuk V. Posters with candidate Kuznetsov Edward who is the assistant of Minsk Open Society "Belagroprombank" operating branch, are on all sites.
A.Levkovicha's authorised representatives, the candidate from the UDF party who goes on one district with O.Velichko (the Brest-Zapadnii election district № 1) were given up in placing propaganda materials in many places of district (shops, drugstores). Thus, materials of the competitor have been placed.
Administration of the "Central market" in Brest has also given up in placing material. On September, 13 at the meeting of the candidate A.Levkovich with the director of the ‘’Central market" D.Glushinskii, the director of the market has agreed to place posters of the candidate. However the posters left by the candidate from the UDF party didn’t appear in the city market of Brest.
On September, 14 A.Levkovich has orally addressed to G.Zhuk, the chairman of the district commission of Brest-Zapadnii election district № 1, and has asked to correct the situation. However the chairman of the district commission G.Zhuk has not managed to provide equal conditions for propaganda carrying out in the district. On September, 15 the candidate has directed the written complaint to the district commission, to the Central Electoral Commission, to observers from OSCE and CIS.
On September, 1 V.Lazorenkov the candidate of Belovezhski election district № 8 has addressed to the managers shops of consumers' co-operative society (these shops make not less than 80 % from quantity of all shops in area) with the request to place the pre-election posters on the area of the shops. As a result more than 50 posters were placed. On September, 8 at a district detour the candidate has noticed, that only 3 posters have remained. On its request to explain this fact the chairman of the Belovezhskii district selective commission № 8 V.Gritsuk has informed, that the order about removal of posters in shops has been given by the representative of the department of ideology of Kamenetskii district executive committee I.Nigirish according to the decision of executive committee from August, 19.
One more candidate of Belovezhskii election district № 8 has faced a similar problem - V.Vavronjuk. As he said, rural shops in some villages also refused to place his propaganda production. Illegality of the actions of the administration underlines that fact, that at territory of Pruzhanskii area in the same selective district similar problems has not arisen.
As observers mark that in Brest posters of the candidate of the Brest-Zapadnii election district № 1 from the UDF party A.Levkovich are practically daily stuck with labels "Boycott". Cases of damage of these posters are frequent. Practically all pre-election posters of the candidate of Brest-Vostochnii election district № 3 Igor Maslovskii have been damaged. The candidate has handed in the statement to the Moscow CBIA of Brest (a copy - in the district selective commission and to the observers of OSCE) with the requirement of making answerable persons who have made illegal actions, and to take necessary measures to prevent similar actions.
Observers fix call for boycott of elections: in many regions of Belarus propaganda materials call for boycott of elections. For example, leaflets of the Civil initiative in mail boxes of inhabitants of Baranovichi "The Belarus solidarity fall in with the position of conservative-Christian party BNF". The basic motive of a leaflet - "Nobody on false elections!"; "Nonparticipation in elections will be blow under plans of a mode and Russia". In leaflets it is told about explosion in Minsk on July, 4, and current political events.
It is necessary to notice, that according to observers quite often oppositional candidates had necessary and equal enough conditions for propaganda conducting unlike the last election campaigns. As estimates a course of the propaganda company the candidate from the UDF party of Brest-Vostochnii election district № 3 I.Maslovskii, he practically did not feel barriers from the power party during meetings with voters in working collectives, at parental meetings. The candidate spent pre-election pickets on September, 20-22from 12.00 till 19.00, incidents has not occurred during them.
The Brest executive committee has not satisfied demand of A.Levkovich in carrying out of pre-election pickets. The decision basis the Brest authorities named discrepancy in terms: it was a question about an error (instead of 2008 it has been written 2007-2009).
Propaganda by holding meetings with constituents
According to observers, the principle of equal possibilities for propaganda was broken and at holding meetings with constituents. Proimperious candidates did not have problems in the organisation of such meetings.
Slutsk election district №74: all the meetings of the candidate Kleshchuk Inessa, the first secretary of the Slutsk city town committee of BRUY, have taken place, and at her competitor - Jurevich Anatolii, party member of BSDP (Gramada), faced problems. For example, A.Jurevicha's meeting with workers of the branch of Open Society "Belagroprombank" of Slutsk was broken after the telephone call from Slutsk regional executive committee. They have been warned about the responsibility for the meeting organization with the oppositional candidate.
I.Kleshchuk's meeting should have taken place at 13 p.m. on September, 11 under the schedule of the office building of the Central regional hospital. But as it became known, the head physician of this establishment Navras Vladimir ,who is an authorised representative of Kleshchuk, has decided to organise two meetings this day: at 8.00 and 13.00. The meeting at 8.00 at I.Kleshchuk has been invited only, has passed actually in working hours. A.Jurevich who has casually learnt about a meeting at 8.00, to address to the voters, but the head physician of hospital has demanded, that workers have to work. At 13.00 the history has almost entirely repeated.
Six demands were submitted by the staff of the candidate of UCP of Grodno-northern election district № 51 Yaroslav Romanchuk to the enterprises and establishments, but neither of them were satisfied.
The administration of the Combine of building materials has referred to assembly hall repair; the meat-packing plant management - on regime character of object, a management of a palace of culture "Youth" has returned the demand with a mark on an envelope, that the addressee does not exist; market "Crown" management motivated refusal by absence of a place, suitable for a meeting; management of the school №23 motivated refusal by carriage of ball dances; enterprise "Radio-wave" has given up on the basis of that the assembly hall is in an emergency condition. At the same time there were no such problems for the proimperious candidate of this district Marina Remsha.
Propaganda by holding meetings with constituents among election district s was spent with use of administrative resource: chairmen of the Village Soviets, directors of schools obliged to organise a meeting of this or that candidate, to collect people on it.
Candidate of Soligorsk rural district №76 Lavrukevich Anna, the general director of the State association "Belbyt", used office cars of the authorised representatives for the trips to Kopyl area: the vice-president of the executive committee of Kopyl district Romanovskaya A. , a managing of the department of ground resources Matusevich L.
Besides, trips for the purpose of propaganda were carried out by the candidate with the authorised representatives in their working hours.
Similar infringement are fixed in Slutsk election district №74. Some employees of Slutsk executive committee drived candidate Kleshchchuk Inessa to the meetings by office cars: the vice-president of district executive committee concerning social sphere Dovguchits P., the chief of ideological department Dobrovolskii L., and the chairman of the Village Soviet of Gatsukovo Tsvirko N.
The head of theExecutive Committee in Grodno Antonenko Alexander, the candidate of Grodno-Zanemanski district № 49, spent reception of inhabitants of district in which he was going to stand without registration as a candidate. Meetings passed in premise HOS № 20. Observers of BHC R.Jurgel and S.Rudkovskaya have registered to the meeting on August, 25. On their remarks on illegality of carrying out of propaganda in such forms, A.Antonenka's has answered: "I study problems of inhabitants of microdistrict to represent interests of voters, the nobility of their problem in the future parliament adequately. And who does not agree with these meetings, can appeal against". Meetings were spent together with, the deputy of city council of deputies P.Volodko and the chief of HOS № 20 M.Orsiko.
On September, 17 a seminar-study an ideological active has passed on a production association "BelAZ" in Zhodinski election district №66. People who carried out duties of ideologists have received gifts: last edition of the book about "BelAZ", an album and СD in a firm package. In presence of observers of BHC assistant of the general director on ideological and information work Stanislav Yakubovich distributed all participants two propaganda posters (a format 210х420 and 210х297) with the program and the biography of proimperious candidate Vasilii Ljutikov.
Prevention of the candidates
The selective commissions did not remove candidates infringement of rules of conducting propaganda that distinguishes election campaign positively in comparison with the past. Mainly oppositional candidates have received preventions from the district commissions for the infringements admitted during propaganda. Basically they concerned on edition of propaganda printing materials for personal means (voters’ invitations to the meetings with candidates, propaganda leaflets and posters).
The established conditions of obligatory publications of programs and performances on radio and TV, the size of state financing on propaganda still insufficient for carrying out of the serious propaganda company. It is obvious, that oppositional and proimperious candidates had unequal conditions for propaganda.
However, during the given elections, candidates including oppositional have received enough ample opportunities for distribution of printing propaganda own materials and materials of the parties.
"Right defenders for free elections"