Valiantsin Stefanovich: Elections are always accompanied with repressions and harassment in Belarus
Recently the authorities have increased the pressurization of representatives of the democratic community and member of their initiative groups on all levels.
’All elections in our country are accompanied with repressions or harassment in a greater or lesser degree depending on the level of elections,’ says Valiantsin Stefanovich, lawyer of the Human Rights Center Viasna. ‘Pitifully enough, the elections are traditionally organized and held by local executive authorities, not by election commissions, because the authorities are directly responsible for the formation of election commissions of different levels.’
Mr. Stefanovich believes that harassment of independent candidates and members of their initiative groups by the law machinery and state agencies is connected with the wish to prevent any complications in the future, because the local authorities will face certain problems and will have to solve them in loco if some democratic candidates win at the elections and become members of any Soviets of Deputies.
‘The Central Election Commission is working quite well. However, the ongoing pressurization isn’t favorable for holding free elections. If we ignore the cases of persecution and summons to tax and investigative bodies, this year’s elections demonstrate a considerably better numbers than the previous ones – the percent of refusals to register initiative groups is insignificant. However, the things that are taking place on the local level spoil the image the authorities wish to create,’ pointed Mr. Stefanovich.
Valiantsin is sure that it is necessary to attentively watch the formation of the precinct commissions that is a very important stage of the elections. The number of places members of political parties and NGOs managed to take in the commissions will let one judge to which extent the practice of holding the elections changed and whether the Election Code fostered the wider representation in the commissions of all political subjects, not only pro-regime persons and organizations.
’We are waiting for the early voting. It is quite interesting to see who it will happen and whether the mechanisms of forced bringing certain categories of electors to the precincts will be still employed. Another stage of similar importance is the counting of votes. This sphere remained practically unchanged and it will be very important to see whether observers had a real opportunity to see how the votes were calculated.
As far as the organization of the elections aren’t monitored by any international missions except from the Embassies accredited in Belarus, it is very important to analyze the information that is collected by the human rights organizations that are participants of the campaign Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections. An analytical material will be published after the end of registration of candidates and intermediate conclusions will be made,’ stated the Viasna lawyer.
Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections