Election campaigning by candidates for deputies of Local Councils of Deputies of the 26th convocation. Analysis and Trends.

2010 2010-04-26T01:13:59+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Election campaigning by candidates for deputies of Local Councils of Deputies of the 26th convocation. Analysis and Trends.

1. Background

According to Art. 45 of the Electoral Code, the citizens of the Republic of Belarus, political parties and other public associations, work collectives, the candidates’ proxies have the right to free and full discussion of the election programs of candidates, their political, business and personal qualities, to campaigning for or against a candidate at meetings, rallies, through media, as well as during meetings with voters.

Canvassing electoral materials, addresses at meetings, in the press, on television and radio should not contain propaganda of war, calling for a violent change of constitutional order, undermining the territorial integrity of the Republic of Belarus, insults and slander against officials of the Republic of Belarus, and candidates . Agitation or propaganda of social, racial, ethnic, religious or linguistic advantages, production and dissemination of messages and materials that incite social, racial, ethnic or religious hatred is prohibited.

Agitation (including public calls for a boycott of the elections) on the day of voting is not allowed.

Article 74 of the Electoral Code guarantees the candidates for deputies an equal right to speak at election and other gatherings, meetings, in the press, on public radio.

State bodies, public associations, heads of organizations, bodies of territorial public self-government are obliged to promote the organization of meetings of candidates with voters.

Art. 73 of the Electoral Code guarantees equal rights and responsibilities to all the candidates and forbids the use of the advantages of official position for election activities.

Candidates, their proxies, which are engaged in campaigning for the election of candidates, have no right to distribute money, gifts and other material values, hold a sale of goods, provide free of charge any services and goods except for printed campaign materials, specially prepared for the election campaign. When campaigning it is prohibited to influence the citizens by promises to transfer cash or material values.

If any of these requirements are violated, the relevant commissions shall take measures to prevent abuse of the right to conduct pre-election campaign, the election commissions may also revoke the registration of the candidate.

In accordance with the schedule of events for preparation and holding of elections to local councils of deputies of the Republic of Belarus of the 26th convocation, which was approved by the Central Commission for Elections and National Referenda, the campaign began from the moment of registration of candidates on April 24, 2010, inclusive.

Under current election law, canvassing by candidates and their proxies can be carried out in three forms: campaigning through printed materials, mass media and through public events and meetings with voters.

 

 

2. Campaigning through printed materials

Legislative control

In accordance with Art. 45 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, candidates have the right to produce campaign posters, addresses, statements, slogans, leaflets, photographs (posters). The cost of producing of posters for the candidate for the Minsk Regional and Minsk City Councils of Deputies are covered by funds from the budget of 8 basic units (BYR 280,000), for the candidates of the district, town (towns of regional subordination) councils of deputies - 4 basic units (BYR 140,000) and for the candidates of the urban (towns of district subordination), settlement and rural councils of deputies - one basic unit (BYR 35,000).

The printed campaigning materials must contain the following output: name and address of the organization (individual entrepreneur), which produced the printed materials, license number of printing activity and the date of its issuance, circulation and contract number. The printed campaigning materials shall be manufactured in the territory of the Republic of Belarus. Dissemination of anonymous printed campaign materials is prohibited.

In the conduct of elections, local executive and administrative bodies in accordance with the relevant committees allocate places most frequented by citizens in the territory of the polling stations, for placing printed campaign materials. Executive and administrative authorities may prohibit the placement of printed campaign materials in non-designated locations.

It is not allowed to destroy, overposting, smearing, damage of posters, if these posters are made and posted in compliance with the legislation of the Republic of Belarus.

All polling stations no later than 14 days before the election should produce stands with information about the candidates. The stands with the information materials are stored in the voting premises until the election day, inclusive.

The canvassing materials previously placed outside the premises for voting are retained at their previous locations.

According to Art. 48 of the Electoral Code, political parties, other public associations, other organizations, the citizens of the Republic of Belarus cannot have other material assistance in the preparation and conduct of elections, except for donating money to an off-budget fund (the money received by such a fund are divided equally among all candidates).

The person nominated for candidacy should not use cash or other material assistance in violation of these requirements, which can result in a refusal to register the candidate or cancellation of the candidate’s registration.

It is also prohibited to abuse direct or indirect participation of foreign states and organizations, international organizations, foreign investment, foreign nationals and stateless persons in the financing and other material assistance in preparing and conducting of elections.

The creation of a candidate's election fund is not provided by the Electoral Code. In accordance with the latest changes to the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, the creation of such fund shall be provided only during the elections of deputies of the House of Representatives and the President of the Republic of Belarus. In connection with this, the production of all information materials by candidates for deputies of local councils, as well as the conduct of the entire campaign in general, is carried out exclusively for the money allocated for these purposes from the budget.

Accordingly, the election campaign of candidates for deputies of local councils has been held in the same legal conditions as the previous election campaigns.

 

Trends and violations

The small amount of funds provided by the current electoral law for the manufacture of printed campaign materials has had an evident effect on the visibility of campaign during the elections. The funds granted by the budget could only cover the printing of printed campaign materials, which were located in the areas designated for this purpose by local authorities (on information stands). There was a deficiency of other types of printed materials (leaflets, invitations to meetings with voters), resulting in the lack of a full-fledged campaign and disseminating of information about the candidates, their programs among the voters. As a result, the campaign was generally invisible, especially in the regions.

A striking example is the campaign of the candidate Paulouski. The funds allocated for canvassing to the candidate for the Mahiliou city and regional councils was only enough to print the campaign materials for 20% and 40% of the electorate constituencies respectively. ‘Mahiliou Regional Printing House agreed to publish my campaign materials, - says Aliaksei Paulouski – The funds allocated for running for the regional council of deputies was just enough to print 5,700 of the cheapest black and white canvassing leaflets and 50 colour posters. Considering that there are 15 000 voters in my regional constituency, then I could only cover about 40% of voters with the materials. As a candidate the Mahiliou City Council of Deputies I was also provided with certain funds, which was only enough to print 1,500 leaflets and 10 posters of the same quality. Considering that there are 7,000 voters in my constituency, then this amount is very small, and it can cover only 20% of voters.’

In some cases, there have been documented cases of censorship of informational materials prepared by the candidates. The role of censors was played by local executive authorities, the relevant district and territorial election commissions, and in some cases - the organizations that entered into appropriate civil contracts for the manufacture of the printed materials. Some organizations required prior agreement on the texts of leaflets by the relevant local executive committees.

On 16 April, a candidate for the Vitsebsk Regional Council Mikalai Petrushenka filed a complaint with the prosecutor's office of the town of Orsha against Orsha town executive committee. The point was that the candidate decided as part of his election campaign to print 10,000 copies of in the Orsha Printing House. The text of the leaflets contained information on the time of addresses on the radio by other candidates from the opposition. However, the printing house informed the applicant that all the leaflets could be printed only in agreement with Orsha Executive Committee. Mr. Petrushenka asked the prosecutor with a request to give a legal evaluation for such censorship and approval of materials by candidates.

On 6 April, the manager of Mazyr State Printing Company ‘Kalor’ Mr. Dyliuk rejected a candidate for the Homel Regional Council Uladzimir Tseliapun in the printing of his campaign materials, claiming that ‘he cannot print it, otherwise they will take away his license.’ The day before, on 5 March, the candidate drew a contract for the printing of posters and leaflets with the printing firm, and wrote a letter of guarantee for payment. The agreement and the protocol of price coordination were carried to the local election commission, who was to approve them to guarantee the transfer of funds for printing of the products. The candidate asked the manager of ‘Kalor’ for an official response to the refusal to print the campaign materials. The candidate appealed the denial by the printing firm and the inaction of the constituency election commission to remedy the situation. On 15 April, Uladzimir Tseliapun received a copy of a letter from the Homel regional election commission, where the commission’s deputy chair Mr. Usau explained the meaning of Art. 45 part. 11 of the Electoral Code to the constituency commission. Namely, that the candidate has the right to produce campaign posters, leaflets and photographs. The legislation does not provide for any rights or obligations to exercise censorship. The candidates can independently prepare the texts and, in accordance with Art. 49 of the Code, shall bear civil or another, as provided by the law, liability as a result of breaches of the requirements for campaigning or the content of campaign materials. However, the penalties may only be imposed after the printing of the materials.

On 8 April, a candidate for the Brest Region Council running in Yaminskaya constituency #21 A. Kuzniatsou submitted the layouts of his leaflets, posters and stickers to the ‘ArtLine’ Brest printing company. The company reported that they had received a call from the head of the ideology department of Brest Regional Executive Committee, L.P. Lemekh, who spoke negatively of Kuzniatsou ‘s leaflets. After that, ‘ArtLine’ refused to print the candidate’s campaign materials. Zmitser Shurkhai, coordinator of the BCD Brest Regional office, noted that the territorial election commission, including A. Lemekh, saw the designed leaflets and did not approve the text for the reason that the candidates adheres to the views of Christian Democracy and published a respective electoral program. After the refusal the candidate’s proxies went to the executive committee and pointed Mr. Lemekh to the responsibility for such intervention in the electoral process stipulated in the Electoral Code. However, ‘ArtLine’ refused to print the materials. The manager reported that he had received another call from the head of the ideological department, but assumed the responsibility not to publish the candidate’s materials.

A BCD candidate from Babruisk appealed to the Nepahodzin state printing house for printing her campaign leaflets. After the deputy director studied the layouts of the leaflets, he invited the woman to him and criticized the BCD’s symbol - cornflower, proposing to remove the ‘swastika’, since otherwise the leaflets would not be printed. ‘In the end she agreed to remove the cornflower, because she was afraid that the case with the printing would take too much time, and she would not have time to prepare the materials, - says the leader of the BCD Babruisk community Taisiya Kabanchuk. - We advised her to write a complaint to the electoral commission, and sue the printing house manager.’

The private printing enterprises of Homel for various reasons refused to print the leaflets of independent candidates. A candidate for the Homel Regional Council, coordinator of the BCD party Sviataslau Shapavalau was told by a representative of one of the private enterprises that there were secret orders not to print some leaflets, and avoid talking to the candidates who wanted to order this kind of products. ‘The private enterprise, and we visited three of them, send us back to the state-owned ‘Palesdruk’ enterprise. But the case is that I wanted to publish the leaflets in the form of stickers, and ‘Palesdruk’ cannot perform such an order. Meanwhile, the private enterprises, which can technically do it, refuse to do so,’ explained Mr. Shapavalau. He also noted that ‘Palesdruk’ refused to print half of the leaflets. ‘I planned a half of the leaflets to be printed in ‘Palesdruk’, and half done in the form of stickers by some private enterprise. But ‘Palesdruk’ explained that there was an order not to print a half or some part of leaflets - all or nothing at all,’ said the candidate.

In Minsk there were recorded instances where employees of local housing departments removed campaign materials posted on notice boards at the entrances to houses. Thus, in Berastsianskaya Street in Minsk’s Partyzanski District in Pershamaiskaya constituency #56 the employees of housing department #12 removed the campaign leaflets of the candidate Vadzim Kanapatski. They argued that they had received orders from the department’s master Maryna Viktarauna to remove from the boards in the yards all the information that did not deal with the housing service. It is a violation of the Minsk City Executive Committee’s decision #475 of 25 February, 2010 ‘On the definition of Minsk locations for campaigning for the elections to the Minsk City Council of Deputies of the 26th convocation’. At the meeting of the election commission of Partyzanski district a committee member Andrei Tserashkou raised the question of the unlawfulness of the housing department’s actions. His statement was recorded in the minutes and the commission ruled to promptly send letters to all the housing departments of Partyzanski District, reminding about the rights of candidates guaranteed to them by the law.  

 

3. Campaigning through the media

Legislative control

In accordance with Art. 46 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, the candidates for deputies of Local Councils of Deputies, political parties, labour groups, citizens, who nominate candidates, have a right to equal use of public media since the registration of candidates.

State media, as well as the media, financed from the national and local budgets, as well as the media, one of whose founders is a state body or organization, are required to provide equal opportunities to for election speeches of candidates campaigning for the elections.

In the conduct of local elections, candidates for the regional and Minsk city, district, town (towns of regional subordination), have the right under Article 46 of the Electoral Code to one free address on the local public radio. Addresses are provided to the candidates on an equal footing.

The time of the address and the procedure for its provision are regulated by Decision #19 by the Central Commission of Belarus for Elections and Referenda of 18.02.2010 ‘On the procedure of using the state broadcasting media for the campaign speeches of candidates for deputies of Local Councils of Deputies of the Republic of Belarus of the twenty-sixth convocation ‘.

According to Paragraph 1 of this decision, each candidate for Minsk city, district, towns (towns of regional subordination) Councils of Deputies has a right to one 5 minutes free speech on the radio.

Time on the radio is provided to:

- candidate for Minsk city and regional councils of deputies - on Radio ‘Stalitsa’;

- candidates for other regional councils of deputies - on the regional radio broadcast programmes;

- candidates for district, town (towns of regional subordination) – on the programmes of regional, urban radios, and in their absence – on the regional radios.

The time and date of the speeches of candidates are determined in accordance with the draw being made by the relevant district, territorial with the function of district in Minsk, district, town (towns of regional subordination) commissions. The date, time and venue of the draw is announced by the commissions. Broadcasting radio media shall inform listeners about upcoming addresses of candidates. The speeches of candidates are recorded broadcasts.

According to paragraph 11 of the Decision, the candidate independently determines the content of his or her speech. However, it must meet the requirements of Par. 1 of Art. 47 of the Electoral Code. In case of non-compliance with the requirements, the mass media refuses to grant airtime.

Trends and violations

It should be noted that one of the peculiarities of the local council elections was the lack of information about the elections in the state media. State-owned newspapers, national and local ones, did not actually cover the election and limited the coverage to printing of official reports by election commissions and the decisions of the executive committees on the elections. Information about the candidates and their programs did not appear in state-run press in many regions for a long time. The exception is the appearance in the local media of materials about the heads of enterprises, who were nominated as candidates or reports by the deputies. The materials covered their activities as state servants or deputies, but these materials appeared in local state media right after the registration of these persons as candidates.

With regard to non-state media, their role in covering of the elections was also insignificant. This is primarily due to the general state of independent media in Belarus. Most of the registered independent media were excluded from the public distribution system back in 2006 and are still inaccessible to the general reader.

National newspapers did not print the campaign materials of independent candidates, despite the fact that all candidates, political parties and citizens who are nominated as candidates are entitled to have access state media.

A candidate for the Mazyr District Council Frantsishak Viachorka submitted his electoral programme to the newspaper ‘Zhytstsio Palessia’ (founders - Regional Executive Committee and Council of Deputies), and enclosed an application for publication. On 5 April, he received a reply from the editor Larysa Chornaya, according to which F. Viachorka was denied publication by reference to Art. 75 of the Electoral Code: ‘The program of the candidate should not contain propaganda of war, calling for a violent change of constitutional order, undermining the territorial integrity of the Republic of Belarus, to incite social, ethnic, religious and racial hatred, insults and slander against officials of the Republic of Belarus, other candidates, the Presidents of the Republic of Belarus, and deputies.’ The words ‘insults and slander against public officials’ were underlined. F. Viachorka believes that the failure is associated with the following fragment of his program: ‘The power should serve the people. They say: ‘No money.’ At the same time, the salary of officials has caught up and surpassed the salary of employees of oil refinery plants. Go to the town executive committee, see what a gorgeous decoration they have. And compare this with how you live and work. Officials are eating our money.’ The program also discussed the return of Mazyr’s the status of radiation-contaminated zone abolished a few years ago, the use of budgetary funds not on ice rinks, but on repairs of streets and the social sphere, on free elections.

The current electoral law only provides for candidates’ addresses on the radio as a campaigning means through the media during the local elections. And only for candidates who are running for regional and Minsk city, district, town (towns of regional subordination) council of deputies. Candidates for the town (towns of regional subordination), rural and settlement councils are deprived of such a right and can only count on advertising through printed materials produced for one basic unit (BYR 35,000) that is allocated from the budget.

We must stress that campaigning through the radio does not appeal to many listeners today. Most of the population listen to FM-stations and watch television programmes. The bulk of the rural population have a stationary radio set and even know at what time one can listen to local news. In cities, candidates' speeches on the wired radio can be equated to the technology of yesterday. Candidates who are nominated in the cities lose a large number of potential voters, because the wired radio almost came out of the scope of everyday use. Many young people do not even know that there is such a thing as a stationary radio set. The older people, even if they know about its existence, almost do not use stationary radio sets, moreover, it is difficult to find the radio programme. Thus, candidates have the legal right to use public radio and to communicate their election platforms to the voters, but the modern unpopularity this type of media and a small audience of listeners provide the minimum result to their addresses. In addition, much time may pass between the address on the radio and the election day - a lot of candidates’ speeches were aired in the last days of March - early April. During the issuance of candidates’ IDs by the election commissions the candidates drew the date and time of the broadcast on the radio. Before to the election day - April 25 - the voters who were able to wait and listen to candidates' speeches, may forget their pre-election programmes, and even the names of the candidates. The observers recorded instances of arbitrary censorship of candidates’ radio speeches. For instance, in the town of Beshankovichy, Vitsebsk region, the radio speech of the candidate for the District Council - a local teacher and BCD member Heorhi Stankevich - was recorded, but the district election commission did not allow its broadcast. Mr. Stankevich was explained that the district election commission had rebuked his address because of the fact that ’he may label the other candidates for the District Council, and the content of the speech does not deal with the programme of the candidate.’ The speech by the candidate dealt with the salaries received by the representatives of the authorities, and those of ordinary citizens. Also, Mr. Stankevich said that the elections are a myth - since in each constituency only one candidate is running and only a few constituencies there is an alternative. Mr. Stankevich appealed the ban.

 

4. Campaigning by holding public events and meetings with voters

 

Legislative control

 

These types of canvassing are regulated by Art. Art. 45, 45-1 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus. The amendments to the Code affected this kind of campaigning (the holding of mass events).

The existing legislation previously treated the holding of public events (meetings, rallies, demonstrations) to campaign as the actions that are regulated by the Law of the Republic of Belarus ‘On Mass Events of the Republic of Belarus’, with the sole exception that the local executive and administrative bodies shall receive an application for holding such an event 5 days before it, and the answer was to be issued 2 days before the date of the canvassing event. This practice was changed, and a separate Article 45-1 was introduced to the Code, which currently regulates this form of campaigning. This article governs the procedure for holding public events organized by the candidates in the locations specified for that purpose by the local executive bodies in accordance with the relevant election commissions.

To arrange a public event a candidate or a candidate’s proxy shall send a statement to the local executive authority in the territory of which the event is expected to be conducted (in Minsk the statement is sent to the Minsk City Executive Committee), not later than two days before the planned date.

The mass event, as well as its preparation, should be discontinued at the request of the head or deputy head of the local executive body, bodies of internal affairs in the following cases:

- failure to comply with requirements under Par. 2 of Art. 45.1 committed by the candidate or the candidate’s proxy;

- risks to life and health of citizens.

Mass actions aimed at implementation of canvassing activities, which are planned in places determined by the executive committee, are held in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Belarus on mass events.

Another possible means of agitation is holding meetings in the premises, as well as meetings with voters. In accordance with Par. 7 of Art. 45 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, local executive and regulatory bodies in consultation with the relevant election commissions determine the premises to host meetings with the candidates, as well as pre-election meetings organized by the voters. The provision of other facilities is possible upon agreement between the heads of enterprises and the candidates, their proxies, or voters. The premises are rent-free in the order of the submission of applications by the candidates, their proxies, or citizens.

In accordance with the guidelines of ‘The organizational and legal issues of activities by territorial and constituency election commissions for elections of deputies of Local Councils of Deputies of the Republic of Belarus of the twenty-sixth convocation’, approved by Resolution #1  by the Central Eelction Commission of Belarus of 12.01.2010, the election commissions have the responsibility to inform the voters through the media or otherwise about the date and place of meetings with candidates, his or her proxy, or a meeting organized by citizens.

 

Trends and violations

 

In accordance with the recent amendments to the electoral legislation, local administrative bodies in consultation with the election commission determine the venues for public campaigning events. In practice, in determining such places local administrative bodies do not adhere to the principle that they should occur in the places most visited by the voters. Also, the determined locations for mass events would often be not found in each constituency of the Council. In fact, in big cities a few places were chosen, and in some cases - only one. This led to the fact that in most constituencies the candidates had no place for campaigning by holding public events. Participants of the monitoring repeatedly complained to the CEC that the local executive authorities had not determined enough locations for meeting with voters. The Central Commission recommended that local authorities reviewed the decisions. Such complaints were filed against the decisions by the executive committees of Baranavichy, Salihorsk, Mahiliou, Masty. As a result, local authorities specified additional locations for campaigning. Meanwhile, the Central Commission in its responses to complaints wrote that the Electoral Code did not provide for mandatory identification of such places in each constituency. This is a serious shortcoming of the current legislation because the candidates were often forced to hold meetings with voters in locations determined by the local executive committee, located outside the constituencies in which they were running, and where their voters lived. This often rendered such meetings meaningless.

For example, the candidate for the Hrodna Regional Council Zmitser Kukhlei addressed the CEC with a complaint against a decision by Masty District Executive Committee, according to which in the entire district only two locations were authorized for public events. According to the decision of the executive committee, candidates could campaign at a spare pitch of the ‘Nioman’ stadium and on a site for trade fairs outside Masty market. The events could only be held after 15:00. Holding of mass events in other locations was prohibited. The district has 25 constituencies, 12 of which are located in Masty, the remaining 13 - in the countryside. The candidate Zmitser Kukhlei argued in the complaint that the vast majority of candidates are deprived of any opportunities to conduct election campaigning events: meetings, rallies and pickets. This is especially true of those who live in rural areas.

It should also be noted that the authorized locations would often appear to be in the areas not visited by voters, which fell short of the general provisions of Art. 45 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus. For example, following the complaint by the candidate Kuhlei, the local authorities chose additional 22 locations for campaigning in the town, but all these places were not frequented by citizens.

A similar situation was observed in the town of Salihorsk, where the executive committee reviewed its decision on the appointment of places for campaigning by the candidates. Initially, the officials identified two locations for the one hundred thousand residents of the town, and both the locations were situated on its outskirts. Representatives of Aliaksei Valabuyeu’s campaign team and the local branch of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee filed a complaint with the Central Electoral Commission and the district executive committee. They claimed that the number of locations limited the candidates' ability to fully carry out an election campaign, since there were permitted locations directly within the territories of the constituencies. The Central Commission took the side of the human rights defenders and the pro-democratic activists, and in March recommended that the Executive  Committee reviewed the decision. Information about the changes came only on 14 April, and was publicly announced on 15 April only. Under the new decision of the Executive Committee, candidates were able to canvass for voters at 12 more locations outside the town’s schools. Still, it failed to provide any additional premises within the constituencies.

A similar situation occurred everywhere, so it should be noted that almost all over the country the local authorities tried to limit the possibilities of holding public campaigning events.

The new rule of law on the declarative principle of public events made it easier to carry out canvassing activities. However, in situations where local authorities chose scarcely populated locations or the locations are situated outside the constituency, in which a particular candidate was running, it could lead to an effective campaign. These legislative innovations in practice have not led to increased opportunities for campaigning and access to information about candidates by the voters.

Several violations were recorded by monitoring participants during such campaigning events as meetings with voters in the premises. There were cases when the electorate was not informed about the date and place of such meetings by the election commissions. Also, there were cases when the candidates themselves were not informed about their meetings with voters.

E.g., one of the Homel constituency election commission ‘forgot’ to inform some candidates about their meetings with voters, and the names of others were not named as candidates when inviting people to a meeting. The Regional Coordinator of the Movement ‘For Freedom’ Piotr Kuzniatsou told about the situation with the candidate for the Homel City Council Zmitser Stsepanets. The candidate learned about his meeting with voters on 15 April from an announcement on the lamppost. Besides, the notice enumerated the names of every candidate in Valhahradskaya constituency #14, except him. ‘The election commission, if it holds a meetings with the candidates, had to invite all the candidates. I think this is discrimination,’ said Kuzniatsou. Another candidate for the City Council, member of the Movement ‘For Freedom’ Darya Suvorava was not informed about the meeting with voters, scheduled for April 14. However, the information about the planned meeting with the candidates, including Ms. Suvorova, was posted in invitations to the meeting. Darya herself learned about her meeting with voters from her friends.

In accordance with Art. Art. 40, 41, 42 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, election commissions of the respective levels are required to assist the candidates and their authorized persons in the conduct of meetings with voters in the premises. It should be noted that there were numerous obstruction by local executive and administrative authorities in the conduct of such meetings. On 15 April, a candidate for the Mazyr District Council Frantsishak Viachorka (Stantsyinaya constituency #25) and a candidate for the Homel Regional Council Uladzimir Tseliapun (Palesskaya constituency #43) held a meeting with voters of Mazyr’s Chyhunachny district. The meeting took place at a site outside the House of Culture ‘40 Years of October’. The candidates were not let inside the House of Culture - at this time instead of meeting the building was occupied by a video show. The schedule of showing the video had been suddenly changed, and instead of 14 April, the show was ordered to be moved to 15 April. Meanwhile, Mr. Tseliapun back on 12 April personally handed the head of affairs of the executive committee Pashynski (he is also chair of Mazyr district election commission) a statement on the forthcoming meetings of the candidates with voters. On 14 April, ahead of the meeting, Mr. Tseliapun asked the prosecutor of Mazyr district Sushcheuski to provide supervision of the implementation by the culture department of Mazyr district executive committee and the head of the House of Culture ‘40 Years of October the rule of law and the provisions of the Electoral Code of Belarus.

During the campaigning there were cases of warnings imposed on the candidate for alleged violations of the rules of holding campaigning events. On 15 April, Vitsebsk city's electoral commission issued an official warning to a BCD activist, candidate for the City Council, running in Tekhnalahichnaya constituency #9 Uladzimir Ramanovich. At the meeting of the Commission the candidate was explained that it was the result of a complaint by the head of the Technological University students’ hostel. The complaint stated that the candidate had held an unauthorized picket in the courtyard of the hostel. Uladzimir Ramanovich explained that he had just given his friends a few of his leaflets. The Commission classified this action as a violation of the election laws and drew the candidates’ attention to the fact that the complaint made by the head of the hostel was accompanied by printouts from the web-site of Radio Liberty - fragments of a radio programme, where Uladzimir Ramanovich talks about the need for improvements within the constituency. The applicant argued that the statements in the Radio Liberty’s programme was also illegal campaigning. According to Uladzimir Ramanovich, all the sites authorized for canvassing pickets and meetings are located outside his constituency, so he had to apply to the commission for permission to hold a meeting with voters in other places. Such a meeting was held in Vitsebsk school #3, where all the candidates running in the nearest neighborhood, were given 5 minutes of time to speak.

The participants of the monitoring also recorded the case of revocation of the registration of the candidate Volha Karach for distributing balloons and calendars among voters, which was considered as bribing of voters by the election commissions. Ms. Volha Karach was denied registration as a candidate for the Vitsebsk Regional and City Councils of Deputies. At the same time, it must be noted that there were no other cases of cancellation of registration of candidates for violations of the electoral legislation. In fact, the commission limited their sanctions to warnings, which also were scarce.   

 

5. Conclusions:

 

1. Changes to the electoral laws, which simplified the legal regulation of public events and meetings with voters, in practice failed to result in the expansion of the electoral campaigning opportunities and the facilitation of canvassing. This was not achieved at the expense of unreasonable restrictions to the scope of places for mass events imposed by the local executive and administrative authorities.

2. In general, there were not a large number of warnings to candidates issued by the election commissions. There was only one case of deprivation of registration for violation of canvassing procedures.

3. The financial resources that were allocated from the budget for printing of campaign materials, were not enough, which affected the visibility of the campaign in general.

4. There were cases of censorship of the texts of information materials by the local executive committees, election commissions and the companies that have printing licenses, as well as cases of censorship of candidates’ radio speeches by the broadcasting companies.

5. The state media paid insufficient attention to local elections.

6. In general, the election campaigning by candidates was very limited, and, as a result, it was not visible to the voters.

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