The results of monitoring of the registration of candidates for deputies of the Local Councils of Deputies of the 26th convocation and the formation of election commissions

2010 2010-03-30T23:13:33+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The Campaign ‘Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections’ presents the results of monitoring of the registration of candidates for deputies of the Local Councils of Deputies of the 26th  convocation and the formation of election commissions.

 

The nomination and registration of candidates for deputies of the Local Councils of Deputies of the 26th convocation

March 25 was the official end of the stage of registration of candidates for deputies of the Local Councils of Deputies of the 26th convocation. The Campaign ‘Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections’ carried out a monitoring of the stage and presents a brief analysis and conclusions on its results.

 

I. Registration of the candidates’ initiative groups

Legal grounds

One way of nominating candidates is the nomination by a group of citizens (initiative group, campaign team). In accordance with Article 65 of the Electoral Code of Belarus the initiative group is considered competent, if the number of citizens in it ranges from 3 to 10 people, regardless of the level of the Local Council.

The list of members of the initiative group, indicating its head, is submitted, together with an application to the territorial or a constituency commission. The submission to the electoral commission, as provided by the Code and the Election Campaign Schedule, approved by Decree № 7 of the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus of 21.01.2010, was held from 14 to 18 February inclusive.

During this period, the electoral commissions received 16,903 applications for registration of initiative groups, including – 341 groups for the nomination of members of political parties. Most of the campaign team members were formed by such political parties as the Communist Party of Belarus - 111 applications, the BPF - 71, the United Civic Party - 60 applications.

The political parties used the nomination by collecting of signatures, guided by the need for the existence of the parties’ local offices for such an allocation, in accordance with the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus. One of the motives of the type of nomination was the fact that in this case there are no other possibilities for communication with the voters when a signature collection campaign for the future candidate is being held indirectly.

One should also take into account the large number of nominated activists of the unregistered BCD Party, for which the only opportunity to participate in the elections was by collecting signatures. Thus, the BCD 204 nominated 204 nominees.

Under the law, a territorial or a constituency election commission should within five days consider the applications submitted and decide on registration or refusal of registration of the initiative group of citizens. The registration of the initiative group shall be refused in the stage of its registration the laws of the Republic of Belarus have been violated. The registration of initiative groups, in accordance with the Schedule, was held from 19 to 23 February.

Compared to the local elections in 2007, the number of refusals to register initiative groups has decreased from more than 100 in 2007 to 23 in 2010. These figures show that the election commissions tended not to create obstacles to the registration of initiative groups. However, comparing the local councils elections of the 24th convocation (2003), we can see that out of the 3,094 groups nominated only 15 were refused registration, which is 0.4%.

The main reasons for denial of registration of initiative groups were: violation of paragraph 1 of Article 65 of the Electoral Code, which requires that the applications for registration of initiative groups shall be submitted by the person, who intends to be nominated as a candidate, as well as violation of the principle of free participation in the elections, enshrined in Article 5 of the Electoral Code. The violation of the principle of free participation in elections was the main reason for the refusal of registration of initiative groups in all the previous elections, and the 2010 election campaign is no exception.

 Astravets district election commission for two times refused to register the campaign team of the UCP member Ivan Kruk, who had intended to run for Astravets District Council. Officially, the activist was accused of alleged ‘violation of the principle of free participation in elections’ during the formation of the initiative group. Ivan Kruk discovered that the members of his initiative group had been intimidated by the local executive committee officials, who threatened them with entering in the so-called ‘blacklists’.

In accordance with Part 9 of Article 61 of the Electoral Code collecting of voters’ signatures may be conducted in the form of picketing. Obtaining permission for this form of collecting signatures is not required if it is held in places other than those banned by the local executive and administrative bodies.

It should be noted that the majority of the local authorities had taken decision, which restricted the possibilities of collecting signatures in crowded places, substituting them with areas remote from human settlements and traffic, or other locations that are rarely visited by voters. As a result of the decisions by the executive and administrative authorities most applicants did not use this form of collecting signatures, to focus on others.

As an example, we can quote decision № 123 by Hlybokaye district executive committee of 09.02.2010: ‘To prohibit the collection of signatures of voters to nominate candidates for deputies of the Local Councils of Deputies in the locations, which impede traffic and pedestrians, at the railway station and the bus station of the town of Hlybokaye, in public transport, educational institutions, institutions of culture, medicine, retail outlets and other places, which contribute to the living activities of the district residents.’

Similar bans were adopted in the towns of Beshankovichy, Verkhniadzvinsk, Talachyn, Lepel, Shumilina, Pastavy, Haradok, Orsha and Navapolatsk. The bans were also  used by the local authorities of some smaller towns of Vitsebsk region. Similar restrictions were adopted in other regions of Belarus, including  Minsk.

Appeals against refusals of registration of initiative groups

In accordance with Part 2 of Article 65 of the Electoral Code the refusal to register an initiative group can be appealed at a higher commission within three days, and in case the complaint is not met, the refusal to register can within three days be appealed at the regional and Minsk city court. The complaint is filed on behalf of the person who intends to be nominated as a candidate.

Such complaints were scarce. An appeal against refusal to register his initiative group was lodged by Ivan Kruk, but he appealed to the authorities, whose competence does not include the consideration of a complaint on the merits. He filed a complaint with the prosecuting authorities and the Central Commission. The Central Commission forwarded the complaint of Ivan Kruk for consideration on the merits to Hrodna regional electoral commission, which, in accordance with the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, has the authority to consider such categories of complaints. The Electoral Commission entertained the complaint, although the timing for the appeal had already expired, and the Electoral Commission reversed the decision by Astravets district commission to refuse the registration of the initiative group for the nomination of Ivan Kruk. In the decision, it noted that the claims by the district commission ‘cannot be regarded as a violation of the requirements of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus on the establishment of the initiative group and cannot serve as grounds for refusing registration to the initiative group.’ In accordance with this decision, the initiative group for nominating Ivan Kruk was registered. Such a decision by a higher commission was a precedent, since earlier under similar circumstances commissions would normally rule to refuse registration.

Homel Regional Election Commission met a complaint by an activist of the unregistered BCD party,  running for Kalinkavichy District Council, Tatsiana Zaitsava. The District Commission denied her the registration of the initiative group, referring to an error in the application: the woman wrote the correct name of her constituency - Sasnouskaya, but inaccurately wrote its number. The Regional Commission reversed the decision by the District Commission of non-registration of Tatsiana Zaitsava’s initiative group.

A contrary decision was passed on the activist of the ‘For Freedom’ movement by Piotr Kuzniatsou. The Regional Commission did not meet his claim, finding that his violation was more serious. Mr. Kuzniatsoo recruited more than 10 people in his initiative group, which is a violation of the law. In accordance with Part 1 of Art. 65 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus the campaign team should have between 3 to 10 members.

Actions by state bodies

As compared with the election campaign to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly alone, there was more pressure on the nominees and the members of their initiative groups from the electoral commissions, their employers or administrations of educational institutions.

Babruisk member of the initiative group for the creation of the BCD Viachaslau Sheleh, who announced his run in the elections, was summoned to the Department of Trade of the town executive committee. Zinaida Lunikhina, Deputy Director of Trade, said that he had been invited on the orders of Vice-Chairman of Babruisk town executive committee Mikhail Kavalevich. During the conversation the official made Viachaslau choose: to run in the elections or to be employed.

A member of the organizing committee for the creation of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Aliaksandr Kabiakou was fired from his job. A week before the election the activist got employed as a security guard at a local casino. On the day when he applied for registration of his initiative group, he received a call from work and was told that was no longer employed.

Apart from that, the command of the military unit prevented a 'Young Front’ activist Andrei Tsianiuta from registering as a candidate. Andrei Tsianiuta filed a written report with the request to let him go on leave and register as a candidate for the local Council. According to the Electoral Code, the administration of the military unit should have created favorable conditions for the registration of candidates and in any case not to interfere with this. However, the unit commander, who is also running in the local elections, told Tsianiuta to submit his application through someone else. Prior to this Andrei Tsianiuta had repeatedly filed reports to the command of Vitsebsk amphibious military unit of his wish to run in the local elections. He was several times forced to rewrite reports.

Public awareness

Article 13 of the Electoral Code guarantees transparency in the preparation and conduct of elections. One of the ways to ensure transparency is defines by the law as ‘informing citizens’, but in many regions the local state-run media and official web-sites of the executive committees failed provide the residents of their regions with complete and timely information.

At the beginning of the election campaign the local authorities’ coverage of the electoral process was extremely scanty.

For example, on some web sites of Homel region executive committees the information on the village councils elections is not represented, the others provide very little data. For instance, the ‘Law’ page of the site of Rahachou district executive committee had for a long time had only the decree on the announcement of  the elections and the plan for their conduct, omitting the most necessary information - decisions by the local authorities and the district electoral commission. On all the sites of Mahiliou region executive committees subsections that focused on the local elections were created. Some provide information about the formation of regional commission, as well as their composition (Slauharad, Bialynichi, Kirau, Kruhlaye, Mstsislau, Cherykau, Shklou and Asipovichy), while others are completely empty (Babruisk, Kastsiukovichy), and some simply inform where the Electoral Commission is located (Bykhau, Hlusk, Horki, Drybin, Klichau, Krasnapolle, Krychau, Khotsimsk, Chavussy, Mahiliou and Klimavichy). The latter part of the executive committees would sometimes limit information on the elections to no more than a few lines.

It was not until the middle of February 2010, that a wider coverage of the campaign on the web sites of the local authorities began to be seen.

According to observers, the situation appeared more optimistic in Vitsebsk region. Here, the authorities made extensive use of the official sites (21 sites of regional, 4 sites of urban and 1 site of regional executive committees). Each site has either a section or a banner with the title ‘Elections to local councils of deputies’. Such section on the site of Vitsebsk regional executive committee is updated according to the schedule of events on the preparation and holding of the elections. It also features statistics in the tabular form. However, the information posted on the site had some inaccuracies and errors, although, as observers note, these faults are quickly identified and corrected.

Evaluating the role of the public media in the coverage of electoral campaigns, the chair of the Central Commission Lidzia Yarmoshyna said that ‘the state media have the right to criticize the opposition candidates during the elections.’ However, she forgot to add that the same criticism can be used against the pro-government candidates to ensure the democratic approach and give all an equal footing. Commenting on Mrs. Yarmoshyna’s statements, the prominent political analyst Viktar Charnou said that she should not have made any statements about the work of the press because her statements might be perceived and interpreted as a call for action. ‘A journalist can have one’s opinion and express it in the press, but this does not mean you have to convert the press into a platform for mudslinging.’

Violation of observers’ rights

According to the concept of the Campaign ‘Defenders for Free Elections’, after the formation of the territorial and constituency election commissions human rights defenders were nominated for the commissions as observers. An incident of refusal to register an observer by Barysau district election commission was registered  in the case of the human rights activist Aleh Matskevich.

Apart from that, there were cases when the election commissions refused to provide complete and comprehensive information to observers.

On 22 February an observer of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Raman Yurhel was not allowed to attend the meeting of Vishniavetskaya constituency election commission № 12 on elections to Hrodna Regional Council, despite the fact that the same commission had earlier registered him as an observer. The Committee Chairman Siarhei Siamashka told Raman Yurhel that the BHC central office had no right to nominate a representative as an observer in the regional commission.

Shortly after Sviatlana Rudkouskaya was registered as an observers of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee in the constituency commission of Praletarskaya constituency № 17 for the elections to Hrodna Region Council, she began to experience harassment in her workplace. Mrs. Rudkouskaya had been the chair of the housing cooperative number 8 for four years and during the period of her employment she had no official penalties and reprimands from the administration of Leninski district of Hrodna. But as soon as was nominated as an observer to the constituency commission, she started to be pressurized. Leninski district administration sent her two summons, signed by Uladzimir Kuzmiankou, with a request to appear at the administration. On 3 March Leninski district administration head Barys Fiodarau sent Sviatlana Rudkouskaya to the head of the housing department Aliaksandr Arkhipau, where she was charged under civil proceedings. The alleged offense was that the adjacent area to the residential building of housing service number 8 was not properly scavenged. Sviatlana Rudkouskaya disagreed with the charges and considered it as the administration’s harassment for her participation in the election campaign. The Administrative Commission of Leninsk district of Hrodna fined the independent observer Sviatlana Rudkouskaya, nominated by the Council of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.

Signature Collection

The collection of signatures is regulated by Art. 65 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus. This article provides that the candidates for deputies should collect at least 150 signatures for his nomination to the regional councils of deputies and Minsk City Council of Deputies, at least 75 signatures in case of running for regional, urban (towns of regional subordination ) councils; at least 20 signatures for nomination for urban (towns of regional subordination), settlement and village councils of deputies. Voters' signatures are collected within a single electoral constituency.

The procedure for collecting signatures is regulated by Art. 61 of the Electoral Code, which prohibits the involvement of the administration of organizations in the collection of signatures, as well as coercion in the process of collecting signatures. Violation of these requirements may result in a denial of registration as a candidate.

The clarification of procedures for the collection of signatures is provided by the Resolution of the Central Commission № 10 of 21.01.2010. The decision duplicates the provisions of the Code, and also gives an indication that the collection of signatures can be carried out in the form of picketing, but only in places that are not forbidden for such activities by decisions of local regulatory and executive bodies. The Resolution states that during the gathering of signatures voters may be presented with informational materials about the person who intends to be nominated as a candidates, but such materials may not be distributed among voters.

The Resolution of the Central Commission regulates the collection of signatures in the territories of military units and dormitories. Thus, the collection of signatures in the army can only be done in consultation with the commanders of military units, and in the dormitories – with regard to the requirements of internal regulations. This rule has in effect restricted the collection of signatures by initiative groups in certain areas, but in practice this meant that members of initiative groups of the nominees could not get there.

A nominee of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party(H) Leanid Padbiaretski could not enter hostel № 1 of Kuliashou Mahiliou State University to collect signatures there. A representative of the hostel’s administration Volha Dzedavets commented on her reluctance to let him inside the building by the alleged fact that the collection of signatures had to be coordinated with the University’s Vice-Rector for educational work Uladzimir Yaseu. Within a few days Mr. Padbiaretski repeatedly conversed with the administration of the University. As a result, on 4 March, an official of the Rector’s office told the future candidate that Rector Bandarenka charged the University’s lawyer to resolve the issue. As it turned out, the lawyer, in turn, was going to send Mr. Padbiaretsi a written response two weeks after the application, i.e. after the period for collecting signatures would have been over. On 2 March the activist met with Vice-Rector who advised him to write an application addressed to the Rector of the University Mr. Bandarenka for permission to collect signatures in the students’ dormitory.

The administration of hostel № 4 of Skaryna Homel State University ruled to prevent collecting signatures in the dormitory. On this occasion a member of the initiative group of one of the nominees Andrei Aksionau addressed the Vice-Rector of the University Siargei Khanenia with a request. Mr. Khanenia offered to write a written request addressed to the Rector of the University Aliaksandr Rahachou and await for the response in accordance with the law. The University administration, justified the refusal to allow collecting signatures in the dormitories, referring to a number of resolutions on internal regulations in the dormitories, and also to some explanations of the Electoral Code by the Central Commission.

The amendments to the Electoral Code made ahead of the elections simplified the provision that regulates the collection of signatures in a single settlement. The former version of Article 61 of the Electoral Code provided for a more complicated procedure. Thus, before it required that a signature sheet should contain signatures of voters living in the same settlement, under the jurisdiction of one rural, village, district, town or city council. The new version of the Article requires that signature sheets  should contain the signatures of the residents of the same town of regional subordination, district, or district in the town (city).

One should also note that after the legislation was reformed, the requirements for completing signature sheets were also simplified. Thus, Art. 61 of the Electoral Code ceased to require a certification of signature sheets by the chair or deputy chair of the local executive or regulatory authority. Now such certification is not required, and signature sheets are certified directly by a member of the initiative group who maintained the collection of signatures. These legislative changes can be assessed as positive, because they actually simplify the collection of voters’ signatures.

As compared with the previous elections a small number of warnings to the initiative groups by the electoral commissions were recorded, but the practice persists. On 2 March the Electoral Commission of Minsk Maskouski district issued two warnings to a nominee Yury Karetnikau - for early canvassing of voters and the use of his own funds for the printing of information materials. The Electoral Commission of Minsk Maskouski district received an order from the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus, signed by its chair, with a request to investigate the complaint, which had allegedly been received by the Commission. The Commission held a meeting for consideration of this case only on 2 March. Moreover, Mr. Karetnikau was only shown a decree by the CEC to conduct the inspection by the election commission, while he never saw the letters of complaint from the residents.

Administrative restrictions during the signature collection

Observers recorded instances of the use of administrative resources in the collection of signatures by pro-government candidates. The residents of constituency #13 told observers, that the signatures for the chief of the local military office Valery Zainchkouski had been collected by the house management staff during working hours and on orders submitted to fulfill the norm of forty signatures each. The house management did not confirm the information and failed to clearly answer whether there were any members of the initiative group of Valery Zainchkouski among the staff.

Compared with previous elections there were fewer cases of interference in collecting signatures and intimidation of citizens who put their signatures for the nomination of opposition candidates. There were no recorded cases of detention of members of initiative groups by the police.

However, at the stage of collecting signatures there were recorded facts of pressure on members of initiative groups to force them to discontinue their participation in the elections as members of initiative groups of pro-democratic candidates. Some nominees were forced to terminate their participation in the electoral campaign. The leader of the Minsk regional office of the youth organization of the United Civil Party ‘Young Democrats’ Artsiom Ahafonau waived his nomination as a candidate for deputy of the Luban District Council. He gathered the necessary number of signatures, but refused to submit the signature sheets to the district election commission because of the pressure on teachers, who were members of the initiative group, among them the wife Artsiom Ahafonau Nadzeya.

In Babruisk on 2 March the local department of the KGB for three hours interrogated the leader of Babruisk Social Democrats Yury Hryniavitski, who was a member of the initiative group for nominating his fellow party member Andrei Stasialovich. The official reason for the interrogation was the conference of the Social-Democrats in Druskininkai, held in late February. Mr. Hryniavitski says the interrogation is tied to his participation in the initiative group on nominating Stasialovich.

II. Nomination by political parties

The nomination of candidates of political parties is regulated by Art. 62 of the Electoral Code. For nomination to the local councils at various levels political parties should have appropriate registered (with a separate file) organizational structure. Thus, the legislative changes did affect the order of nomination of candidates by political parties.

Candidates for deputies of Local Councils were nominated by 13 out of 15 political parties registered by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus.

According to official data of the Central Commission, political parties nominated 2% of the total number of nominated candidates, 2.8% - took the opportunity to be nominated by two entities (nomination by a party and by collecting signatures; by a party and labor collectives). Most candidates were nominated by the Communist Party of Belarus - 207, the Liberal Democratic Party - 61, the Republican Party of Labor and Justice - 18, the Agrarian Party of Belarus - 7, the Belarusian Socialist Sports Party - 2, the Republican Party and the Belarusian Patriotic Party – 1 each. Among the pro-democratic forces the situation is as follows: the Belarusian Party of the Left ‘Just World’ apply for registration of 126 candidates, the United Civic Party - 94, the BPF - 35, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) – 32, the Belarusian Green Party - 5, the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada - 2.

III. Submission of applications for registration of candidates

The submission of applications for registration of candidates for deputies of local councils is regulated by Art.66 of the Electoral Code. This article provides that no later than 40 days before the election (no later than March 15, 2010) a territorial (constituency) election commission shall receive the necessary list of documents required for registration of a candidate. The law states that a person who wishes to be registered as a candidate, shall submit the necessary documents in person, presenting a passport. However, during this election campaign there was a benign practice, when the applications for registration were not submitted in person, but by mail, which in the case shows that the practice of law is more favorable for the candidates than a literal reading of the rule of law.

It is also worth noting that the requirement of personal submission of applications was treated differently by different electoral commissions. E.g. Franak Viachorka who is serving in military unit 48694 in Mazyr, was in Minsk central medical center of the armed forces during  the period of submitting applications for registration of candidate, and could not submit the documents personally, it was possible to be done by attorney members of his initiative group.

At the same time Zhodzina district election commission refused to admit for registration the application by Andrei Kasheuski, filed by the head of his initiative group P. Seviarynets.  Mr. Kasheuski was going run for the Zhodzina district council of deputies but was arrested for 15 days.

One of the documents, which, in accordance with the law shall be submitted for the registration of candidates to the electoral commission, is a declaration of income and assets. In accordance with the requirements of the Electoral Code, the declaration is submitted in the case of nomination to district, town (towns of regional subordination) and regional councils of deputies. In previous election campaigns inaccuracies in completing the declaration were one of the main reasons to refuse registration.

The Electoral Code’s provisions regarding the submission of the declaration were reformed. Thus, in par.7 of Art.68 of the Electoral Code there appeared a provision that the registration of a candidate may be only refused in case of significant deficiencies in completing the declaration. The Central Commission in its Resolution № 17 of 18.02.2010 enumerated the violations that are significant and may be grounds for denying registration. Such reasons include: failure to state information about the amount of income, if such amount is less than 10% of the amount of income actually received; failure to declare vehicles, real estate etc.

In general, the submission of applications for inspection by the territorial and constituency commissions were not accompanied by violations by the government bodies and electoral commission and passed without excesses.

 

IV. Registration of candidates

The registration of candidates for deputies of Local Councils is regulated by Art. 67, 68 of the Electoral Code. These articles regulate the verification of signatures for nomination of candidates through signatures collection, procedures of passing decision on registration or refusal of registration and the procedure for appealing the denial of registration. Article 68 of the Electoral Code was amended, which provided the nominees the right to study the results of verification of the application for registration. The amendment is significant, since earlier in case of refusal to register it was virtually impossible to submit a justified complaint because of the reluctance of election commissions to provide verification results that had become the reason for the refusal.

One must stress that the election commission meetings to verify the documents submitted for registration of candidates could not be attended by observers registered in these commissions. Just like before, the process was closed and not transparent. Therefore, in most cases it is difficult to conclude whether the election commissions were guided by requirements of the electoral legislation in verifying the above-mentioned documents.

Observers and nominees were only invited to the final meetings of the commissions, where the approval of the verification results was passed. Apart from that, there were recorded cases of refusals by the electoral commissions to provide access to materials of the verification.

For instance, the meeting of the Mazyr district election commission was not allowed to be attended by observers to verify the signature sheets, as well as to verify the minutes of nominating candidates. ‘It is not stipulated by the Electoral Code. You can only attend a meeting of the commission. Photographing and recording of the process of meeting is prohibited.’

Hrodna city election commission refused to allow officially registered observer Raman Yurhel  to be present during the verification of the documents submitted for registration of candidates, referring to Article 13 of the Electoral Code, which denies such rights to observers.

During the 2010 local elections the number of refusals to register candidates is lower than that in the previous elections. Opposition political parties nominated 297 candidates, of which 57 members were refused registration, which is 19.1% of the amount nominated by political parties. It is necessary to take into account that political parties generally nominated their representatives by collecting signatures, so the failure rate is less than the total figure nominated by the pro-democratic political parties.

25,035 persons were officially registered candidates for deputies of local councils, 318 persons were refused registration, 122 withdrew their applications. Refusals to register amount for only 1.27% of the total number of candidates. Thus, a deputy seat in the average is claimed by 1.2 persons.

513 registered candidates are members of political parties, which is significantly more than in the previous local elections, when the comparable figure was only 177 people. The Belarusian Party of the Left ‘Just World’ is represented by 99 registered candidates out of 126 nominated representatives, the United Civic Party - 77 out of 94; the BPF - 33 out of 35, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) - 29 out of 32, the BSDH - 2 out of 2 representatives. The CPB has 199 registered candidates, the LDPB - 48, the Republican Party of Labor and Justice – 7, the Belarusian Agrarian Party - 2; the Belarusian Social Sports Party - 2; the Republican Party - 1; the Patriotic Party - 1 representative.

There are 11,300 women candidates among the registered candidates, which is 45% of the total number of candidates.

The youth (under 30 years) are represented by 1,530 registered candidates, which is 6.1% of the total.

Besides, there are 26 citizens of Russia among the candidates, which is 0.1% of the total number of candidates.

Despite the small number, observers recorded facts of mass refusals of registration to virtually all the representatives of the opposition in the same region. In Baranavichy only one in ten opposition applicants was registered as a candidate for the town council. Baranavichy Town Territorial Electoral Commission refused to register BCD activists Aliaksander Kabiak, Halina Yarashevich, Siarhei Zabenka and Aleh Malashchanka. Apart from that, the commission refused registration to Anzhela Kambalava (UCP), Viktar Meziak (BPF), Viktar Tsiapin (‘Just World’). The commission refused to register an activist of the movement ‘For Freedom’ Ryhor Hryk and a number of unaffiliated candidates - businessman Mikalai Charnavus and Dzmitry Auhust. According to the election commission, the candidates with a 15-20-year experience of participation in the elections - Viktar Meziak, Viktar Tsiapin, Halina Yarashevich, Anzhela Kambalava, Aleh Malashchanka, Ryhor Hryk, Dzmitry Auhust - for some reason had put the date in the signature sheets ‘in their own hands’. As for Mikalai Charnavus, Siarhei Zabenka and Aliaksander Kabiak, their declaration statements were filled with errors. On 25-27 March, the unregistered Baranavichy candidates Ryhor Hryk, Viktar Tsiapin, Dzmitry Auhust and Mikalai Charnavus filed complaints to the Brest region territorial electoral commission.

On 25 March Baranavichy town territorial election commission refused to register these applicants as candidates for the Baranavichy Town and Brest Regional Councils. The commission discovered ‘errors’ in the signature sheets. Moreover, the ‘inspection’ was used only against the representatives of the pro-democratic forces.

Before the commission meeting, one of the independent candidates, the director of a Baranavichy firm ‘Andatra’ Dzmitry Auhust had visited the apartments of the residents, who had submitted complaints of their failure to put the dates in their own hands, and inquired about how the signature sheets had been ‘verified’. After that, Dzmitry Auhust presented the meeting of the commission with the statements by the signers, confirming that they had put the dates and signatures in the signature sheets in their own hands. All these statements were in support of Dzmitry Auhust and refuted the papers presented by the commission.

The independent candidate demanded that the statements were considered by the Commission. However, in violation of the Electoral Code, the commission refused to consider them at all. The commission, at the suggestion of its chair Yury Shastsiarniou, voted for the omission of Dzmitry Auhust on the lists of candidates, avoiding the consideration of the citizens’ statements submitted by Mr. Auhust.

Dzmitry Auhust  disagreed with the commission's decision and filed a complaint with Brest regional territorial election commission, seeking to attract professionals and conduct a handwriting expertise of the signature sheets, to declare the decision by the Baranavichy town territorial electoral commission of 25 March 2010 unlawful and register him as a candidate.

Similar complaints were filed by Ryhor Hryk and Viktar Tsiapin.

All the three claimants will also apply to the CEC, urging the Commission to recognize the work of the commission and its chairman Yuri Shastsiarniou unsatisfactory and violating the Electoral Code of Belarus.

Simultaneously, the observer in the Baranavichy town commission Siarhei Housha lodged complaints with the CEC and the prosecutor's office against the facts, where he demands to verify the signature sheets and signatures of the citizens whose applications were submitted to the Commission and to find appropriate experts to conduct a handwriting examination of the documents. The observer also demands the prosecutor to take an adequate legal decision and prosecute those responsible for grave violations of the Constitution (Art. 64) and the Electoral Code of Belarus, whose Article 49 states: ‘Persons preventing by violence, threats, fraud, bribery or in any other way the citizen of the Republic of Belarus from his/her right to participate or not to participate in elections ... as well as members of commissions, officials of state bodies and public associations and other persons who have committed a fraud of documents on elections … or who have made other violations of the requirements of the present Code and other acts of legislation of the Republic of Belarus on elections … shall bear responsibility established by the legislation of the Republic of Belarus’ in connection with the fact that as a result of forgery by the commission the citizens were illegally refused registration as candidates. Siarhei Housha also insists that the CEC obliged the territorial commission reconsider its illegal decision and register the above candidates.

The complaint is supplemented by copies of the voters’ statements, supporting the version that they had put down the dates and signatures for nomination of the named applicants in their own hands.

The peculiarity of this election campaign is the large number of uncontested constituencies where only one candidate was nominated. For example, 55 candidates in 30 constituencies will run for the Hrodna city council, 14 districts being uncontested. Among the candidates, 14 are members of opposition parties.

After the Barysau Election Commission registered candidates to local councils of deputies of the Republic of Belarus of the 26th convocation on 25 March, it turned out that the 34 seats in the District Council would be claimed by 41 candidates.

However, it is clear that the vast majority of constituencies in Barysau district the elections will be non-alternative.

One of the few exceptions - constituency number 15 - the only one where three candidates were registered. The BPF member and activist of the movement ‘For Freedom’ Dzmitry Babitski will compete with two state officials – the director of the Barysau Polytechnic College Uladzimir Shmakau and the director of the ‘Lesakhimik’ open joint-stock company Valiantsin Shkaruba.

Analyzing the data on registration of candidates for deputies of local Councils, it can be seen that the competition remains exclusively in Minsk, where one seat is claimed by 3.9 candidates. In other areas of Belarus the competition is not more than 1.8 people per seat. Thus, in other areas most constituencies, especially those not located in the towns of regional subordination, are non-alternative.

Township and rural constituencies are also predominantly  non-alternative. For example, Brest, Homel, Vitsebsk, Hrodna and Minsk region rural and township councils will be competed by 1-1.1 people per seat. The situation is a slight different in Mahiliou region, where rural and township councils will be run for by 1.8 candidates per seat.

V. Appeals against refusals to register candidates

Appealing against refusals of registration of candidates is regulated by Art. 68 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus. In this part the legislation was not reformed. A complaint shall be submitted within three days to a higher election commission, in case the higher commission does not meet the complaint, the decision may be appealed at the appropriate district (urban) or regional court within three days’ time. The decision by a regional court is final and not appealable.

According to official data, out of 25,475 nominated candidates 318 applicants were denied registration, which is 1% of the total number of nominated candidates.

Analyzing the refusals of registration, it is obvious that the vast majority of such failures were passed upon the pro-democratic candidates. Most of the unregistered candidates represent the organizing committee for the creation of the BCD Party. Out of the 173 party’s applicants who submitted documents for registration as candidates only 82 candidates registered. This is explained by the fact that most applicants participated in the election campaign for the first time, and often made formal mistakes in the collection of signatures or submitting of declarations, which was the cause of failure to obtain registration as candidates. The majority of the candidates appealed against the refusals at higher commissions.

Representatives of other political forces, who were denied registration, also appeal against such refusals. Viktoar Hirshkevich, member of the United Civic Party, appealed the denial of registration as a candidate for the Brest City Council of Deputies. The reason for refusal was that the applicant resides in the territory of Kobryn district, and was also registered as a candidate there. In accordance with Art.60 of the Electoral Code of Belarus candidates for deputies of Local Councils may be nominated by citizens residing or working in the territory of the respective Local Council.

Brest regional office of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (H) lodged a complaint with the Brest regional election commission against the fact of refusal to register a candidate A. Kautun. Mr. Kautun is a full-time student at the University of Gdansk. According to the commission his place of residence is the city of Gdansk (Poland).

One of the main reasons for refusals of registration was invalid signatures of voters during the nomination of citizens by their initiative groups through collecting signatures.

1. It was due to this reason that Uladzimir Tseliapun, member of the BPF(Mazyr, Homel region) was unjustly denied registration… The Secretary of the Mazyr district election commission number 65 presented two signature sheets filled out by a  member of the initiative group, who failed to write the name of the town - Mazyr – in these signature sheets in the column ‘Residence’. Palesskaya street may be possibly found in other cities and towns with the same house numbers and same last names of citizens.

However, in accordance with Art. 61, par. 15 of the EC ‘if the signature sheet, submitted to a district commission, contained signatures of voters residing in different districts, towns of regional subordination, districts in the city (town), examination and accounting shall only be applied to the signatures collected on the territory of the district, city (town), district in the city (town), where the commission who received the signature sheets had been formed. The remaining signatures are not verified and not taken into account. Thus the Commission should not have taken into account these signatures, instead of declaring them as invalid, which influenced the decision to refuse registration.

Conclusions:

1. In general, the registration of initiative groups, and later of the candidates were more democratic and transparent than those in the previous election campaigns.

2. Observers recorded pressure from the authorities, public enterprises and institutions used against the initiative group members of representatives of democratic parties and organizations, as well as against the nominees to force them refuse to participate in the election campaign. There were a number of recorded inadmissible facts of politically motivated dismissals from work, e.g. the dismissal of the BPF Maladechna candidate Tatsiana Balabanskaya.

3. Observers recorded the facts of closeness of the electoral process, when the examination of applications for registration were closed and opaque.

4. The state media did not in fact cover the stage of nomination and registration of candidates for deputies.

 

слухаць Радыё рацыя Міжнародная федэрацыя правоў чалавека Беларуская Інтэрнэт-Бібліятэка КАМУНІКАТ Грамадзкі вэб-архіў ВЫТОКІ Антидискриминационный центр АДЦ 'Мемориал' Prava-BY.info Беларускі Праўны Партал Межрегиональная правозащитная группа - Воронеж/Черноземье
Московская Хельсинкская группа
Молодежное Правозащитное Движение
amnesty international