Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections: Formation of precinct election commissions

2010 2010-03-16T07:29:13+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

According to Article 34 of the Election Code of the Republic of Belarus, precinct commissions for elections to local Soviets of Deputies are formed by district and city executive committees (and city district executive committees in the cities with district subdivisions) not later than 45 days prior to the Election Day and must comprise 5-19 members. The number of persons at a precinct election commission can be increased or decreased if necessary.

As a rule, the state bodies that establish a commissions form at least 1/3rd of its staff from representatives of political parties and other associations. This regulation isn’t used during the formation of the precinct commissions that are located in hospitals and other stationary patient care institutions and at the precincts that are located beyond the borders of the Republic of Belarus.

Judges, procurators and officers of local executive and regulatory bodies cannot become members of the commissions. State officials cannot comprise more than 1/3rd of a commission. This provision is not applicable for the precincts that are located beyond the borders of the Republic of Belarus.

The right to nominate representatives is given to political parties and other civil associations, working collectives and citizens. In the latter case the citizens should put their signatures in the appropriate signature sheets, after which the nominee attaches to them an application for registration of his/her candidacy and files these documents with the appropriate executive bodies. Election observers registered cases of pressurization of the persons who were nominated to precinct commissions. For instance, Natallia Karpava, worker of the Babruisk district central library, was nominated to a precinct election commission as a representative of the civil association Belarusian Popular Front Adradzhenne. On 10 March N.Karpava and her boss received telephone calls from Sviatlana Nosava, Deputy Chairperson of the Babruisk district executive committee, who demanded from N.Karpava to withdraw her candidacy under the threat of dismissal from work. Natallia Karpava and Taisiya Kabanchuk, local activist of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, came to the ideological department of the Leninski district executive committee of Babruisk, where Svialtana Babko, in Kabanchuk’s presence, proposed Karpava to withdraw her candidacy. As far as the latter one had three years left till the retirement she had to refuse from participating in the elections as a member of a precinct commission.

Similar cases were registered in Babruisk. Two democratic representatives also had to withdraw their candidacies for precinct election commissions. Yauhen Herasimovich, locksmith of the Open Stock Company Belshyna (Belarusian Tyre) had to withdraw because of pressurization from the side of the plant administration. Mikita Uvarau, student of the Babruisk State National Reserve College, had to do it after he was issued an ultimatum by the administration of the educational establishment.

Nomination of representatives to precinct commissions
According to the timing schedule of the organization measures on preparing and holding the elections to the local Soviets of Deputies of the 26th Convocation in the Republic of Belarus, the nomination of representatives to precinct commissions and presentation of the documents about their nomination were be finished by 7 March inclusive and the decisions on the establishment of precinct commissions were to be taken by executive committees not later tan 10 March.

According to information of Mikalai Lazavik, secretary of the Central commission on elections and holding national referenda, 77,241 persons were nominated to precinct election commissions. 31,015 persons (40.2%) were nominated by collecting electors' signatures and passing the appropriate applications, 17,385 (22.5%) were nominated by working collectives and 28,841 (37.3%) were nominated by political parties and civil associations.

Political parties nominated 2,212 persons (or 2.9% of the total number of pretenders) to precinct election commissions. 604 of them (0.8%) were nominated by opposition political parties.

The greatest activity was demonstrated by the Communist Party of Belarus (516 nominees). 434 representatives were nominated by the Belarusian Social Sportive Party, 358 – by the Republican Party of Labor and Justice, 281 – by the United Civil Party, 160 – by the Belarusian Party of Leftists Fair World, 132 – by the Belarusian Agrarian Party, 122 – by the Belarusian Popular Front, 95 – by the Liberal Democratic Party, 73 – by the Republican Party, 24 – by the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada, 9 – by the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada and 8 – by the Conservative Christian Party Belarusian Popular Front. The parties were most active in nominating their representatives in large cities. For instance, in Minsk 49,3% nominees are representatives of political parties (12,5%) or civil associations (36,8%).

Civil associations filed a total of 26,629 applications for nomination of their representatives to precinct commissions (34,5%). 3,340 persons were nominated by Belaya Rus, 4,101 – by the Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM), 3,787 – by the Belarusian Union of Women, 2,247 – by the Belarusian Association of Veterans, 9,370 – by the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus and 3,684 – by other organizations.

The observers note that in general all interested subjects had the opportunity to file the necessary documents during the process of nomination to precinct election commissions. At the same time, there were registered some incidents. For instance, on 6 March the duty officer of the Kastrychnitski district executive committee refused to accept the documents for nomination of Khrystafor Zheliapau, coordinator of the For Freedom movement, to a precinct commission. She said that it wasn't an office day and threatened to call the police. Mr. Zheliapau lodged with the Central Election Commission a complaint on the fact of violation of the election laws.

The Masty district executive committee hanged out an announcement that it wouldn’t work on 6-7 March.

Holding of sittings of executive bodies for the formation of precinct election commissions
On 9-10 march executive committees held sittings on the formation of precinct election commissions. As a result, 68,881 persons (89.2% of the total number of nominees) were appointed to the commissions. The largest percent of the inclusions is among representatives of working collectives (88.3%). The total number of the representatives nominated by the working collectives is 15,345. The commissions also comprise 26,731 citizens who were nominated by collecting electors’ signatures (86.2% of the persons who were nominated this way), 25,233 representatives of civil associations (87.5%), 1,572 representatives of political parties (71.1%) including 76 representatives of opposition political parties (12.6% of the total number of their nominees).

Bear in mind that at the press-conference of the United Civil Party concerning the results of the formation of the precinct commissions it was announced that 100 representatives of the opposition parties were included in the commissions, whereas the Central Election Commission speaks about 76 representatives. There is no controversy, as the remaining 24 representatives were nominated not by their parties, but by collecting electors’ signatures and filing applications for inclusion in the commissions.

Commenting on the non-inclusion of the majority of the opposition representatives in the precinct commissions, Mikalai Lazavik, Secretary of the Central commission on elections and republican referenda, stated that opposition parties 'nominated almost all their members without thinking whether these people will be able to work in the commissions'. 'Their pursuit of quantity is not always supplied with quality,' he emphasized.

According to information of observers, the sittings of the local executive committees were held in a closed regime. Single invitations of representatives of opposition political parties and civil associations to them can be considered rather as a rule. The majority of the observers weren’t informed about the time and place of the sittings on the formation of precinct election commissions despite the appropriate oral and written requests by them, and had to obtain such information from private sources.

Some cases were registered when observers were banned from attending such sittings. In Salihorsk, the police detained Ivan Shyla, member of Aliaksei Valabuyeu’s electoral team, right in the building of the Salihorsk district executive committee. He intended to attend the DEC sitting at which the local precinct commissions were formed. Bear in mind that a total of four candidacies from Aliaksei Valabuyeu’s initiative group were nominated to the precinct commissions at the constituency where he intends to run. The nominees also filed written requests for being informed about the time and date of the sitting, but received no answers.

On 10 March Ivan Shyla tried to receive the necessary information at the executive committee. His inquiry was ignored by Anatol Kazakevich, Deputy Chairperson of the committee. In the reception of the committee Chairperson Mr. Shyla was informed that the sitting was beginning and was told the number of the room where it was taking place. However, Aliaksandr Rymasheuski, Chairperson of the committee, banned him to be present and said that the sitting had no relation to the elections.

At the entrance Ivan Shyla was met by four policemen. He managed to visit the reception once again, being escorted by them, and was told that the composition of the precinct commissions was really approved at the sitting. However, he didn’t manage to come there, as the policemen detained him for ‘identification’. At the police station, Mr. Shyla was explained that his detention was connected with hanging out a banner in Salihorsk. The policemen also tried to take explanations from him. Ivan Shyla was let go when the sitting ended.

The observers who were let to the appropriate sittings of the executive organs noted the superquickness of their work, similar to the previous election campaigns. According to information received from observer Siarhei Housha, the Baranavichy city executive committee adopted the compositions of 66 precinct commissions comprising 685 members in 5 minutes.

The voting was conducted on the lists of commission members that had been prepared in advance. The candidacies weren’t discussed. At the majority of the sittings the state officials emphasized that the new norm of the Election Code, according to state officials couldn’t comprise more than 1/3rd of a commissions, was implemented.

The experience of work at previous elections and higher education were considered as some of the criteria for the choice of members for the precinct commissions. According to observer Raman Yurhel, chairperson f the Kastrychnitski district executive committee called mentioned such criteria for the choice of commission members as ‘experience of work in precinct election commissions, ability to work in collective, command of election legislation, morality and absence of administrative punishments’. However, many representatives of opposition political parties and civil associations weren’t included in the commissions despite possessing a great experience of work as deputies and members of election commissions of different levels and juridical education.

Election observers registered quite original reasons for the non-inclusion of nominees in precinct election commissions. In particular, Siarhei Tsepliakou, Chairperson of the Pershamaiski district executive committee of Babruisk, told civil activist Alena Miadzvedzeva she hadn’t been included in a precinct commission because she had filed her application on 7 March (the last day), whereas priority was given to the applications filed on 5 March.

The authorities used different pretexts to prevent election observers and representatives of political parties from studying the documents concerning the composition of precinct commissions.

Appeals against the decisions of the executive committees concerning the formation of precinct election commissions
On 11 March the Minsk city organization of the Belarusian Popular Front lodged with the Partyzanski district court in Minsk a complaint against the decision of the Partyzanski district executive committee on the formation of precinct commissions. The complaint notes that just 1 out of 12 BFP nominees was included in a commission.

On 12 March Ihar Maslouski, Chairperson of the Brest oblast organization of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada lodged with the Maskouski district court of Brest an appeal against the decision of the Maskouski district executive committee on the formation of precinct commissions because 11 out of 13 BSDP nominees hadn’t been included in the commissions.

1. The formation of precinct election commissions was less transparent than the formation of territorial and constituency election commissions. The appropriate sittings of the executive committees were mostly held in a closed regime and observers weren’t admitted to them.

2. The candidacies weren’t discussed during the formation of precinct elections commissions, likewise with the formation of territorial and constituency commissions.

3. Cases of pressurization of the citizens who were nominated to precinct election commissions were registered.

4. The share of opposition political parties in the precinct commissions slightly increased compared to the latest parliamentary elections.



%, out of the total number of nominees


% of included out of


% of nominees among

commission members







by collection of electors' signatures and subsequent filing of applications






from working collectives






from political

parties and civil








from civil associations






from political parties






out of them:

from opposition  political parties:






from BPL Fair World






from BSDP Hramada






from UCP






from BPF Party






from CCP BPF






from BSDH