Amendments to Electoral Code turn lipstick
On 20 October during a meeting with President Lukashenka, head of the Central Electoral Committee Mrs. Lidziya Yarmoshyna spoke on the changes to be introduced to the Belarusian electoral legislation. Political parties, whose member wants to run in the election, will not have to possess a regional office within the territory of the respective constituency. Besides, signature sheets will not have to be approved by local authorities before their submission to the Central Electoral Committee. Grounds for denying registration to a candidate will also be reviewed. Apart from that, voter turnout quota will be lifted in the upcoming local elections. However, the quota for presidential and parliamentary elections will be preserved.
Candidates will also be able to purchase extra air time on TV and radio.
According to www.europeanbelarus.org, it is likely that the authorities will be ‘selling’ those minor changes to Europe as a breakthrough in the sphere of political liberalization. Some of the amendments may be considered as ‘humiliating’ by future pro-democratic candidates, e.g. the proposed permit to form electoral funds with the use of their own resources.
Since the beginning of 2008, representatives of opposition parties have addressed the authorities with numerous propositions on reforming the electoral legislation. However, their opinion was not taken into account. No considerable changes are going to be made, leaving the core of the Code intact. The fact is admitted by Mrs. Yarmoshyna herself, who declared that all the changes would be ‘cosmetical’ and would not affect the practice of applying the legislation.
‘One should realize that the declared changes are not going to reform the existing system of falsifications. As yet, we cannot see how these changes are meant to address the topical issues of exercising control over vote counting, the representation of political parties in the activities of the electoral committees and constraint during early vote, for one can rig elections even in a perfectly democratic legislation. It is the political will of the state to hold free elections that is of key importance for the matter’, said Uladzimir Labkovich, lawyer of the Human Rights Center Viasna.