Public places banned for canvassing for signatures: country-wide analysis
The local executive bodies have identified the list of public places banned for collecting signatures by presidential hopefuls’ initiative groups. The information provided by observers from various regions shows that most populated areas are not among the authorized canvassing locations.
The official web-site of Salihorsk district executive committee published a decree on the list of places banned for canvassing for signatures, including the central squares of Salihorsk, Starobin and Chyrvonaya Slabada. Canvassing is also prohibited within 50 meters of the local executive, administrative, judicial, prosecuting, transportation, energy and water supply, medical, educational and sports establishments.
Leanid Markhotka, Belarusian Helsinki Committee representative in Salihorsk, comments on the ban: ‘Having studied the committee’s decision, one cannot but believe that canvassing for signatures undermines the national security and the lives of people. With the dense street pattern of Salihorsk, the ban covers half of the town’s territory, including most populated areas. The ban on canvassing in squares is simply absurd. For example, Luban executive committee did not mention squares in a similar decision.’
According to officials of Mahiliou city executive committee, canvassing for signatures is prohibited in the city’s central Lenin square and outside the railway facilities. Besides, canvassing is banned within 200 meters of pedestrian underpasses and within 50 meters of the local executive, administrative, judicial, prosecuting, transportation, energy and water supply, medical and educational establishments.
According to Zmitser Salauyiou, leader of the BPF ‘Adradzhennie’ Mahiliou regional office, the decision is sure to block canvassing for signatures and campaigning activities by pro-democratic candidates.
Polastk district and town executive authorities have identified the majority of public places banned for canvassing activities. Predictably, collecting of signatures is not allowed in most public places – sports, cultural and trade events, as well as the local executive, judicial, prosecuting, educational and medical establishments.
In the town of Lepel, canvassing for signatures is also prohibited in places that ‘hamper transport and pedestrian traffic, the facilities of railway and road transport, the territories of organizations, in charge of life-sustaining activities’ (schools, kindergartens and public transport). Rassony authorities imposed a ban on canvassing in the facilities of trade, food-service, public services and industrial enterprises. Similar bans have been enforced in the towns of Ushachy and Shumilina.
Decision #2976 of 24 September 2010 by Baranavichy town executive committee imposed restrictions on canvassing activities, by limiting the number of authorized public places, despite a demand by local human rights activists Siarhei Housha, Karnei Piatrovich and Viktar Syrytsa to review the restrictions and issue a more liberal decision.
Human rights activist Karnei Piatrovich says that the decision, nonetheless, has some positive changes, since it does not prohibited canvassing for signatures outside shops, schools and industrial enterprises. However, it is still not allowed to maintain campaigning in most populous places: Lenin square, road and railway facilities, markets and governmental buildings.
According to Siarhei Housha, the decision does not clearly specify what institutions may be considered as ‘maintaining the defense capability, security of the State or life-sustaining activities’. Therefore, the human rights activists are going to officially ask for explanations on the decision.
Pinsk town executive committee imposed a ban on canvassing activities within 50 meters of the local executive, judicial, prosecuting and law-enforcement agencies. Canvassing is also prohibited at and outside railway stations, bus stops, hostels, banks, educational and medical institutions, markets, sports, trade and religious facilities, thus making it nearly impossible to maintain canvassing for signatures in the majority of public places.
Decision #1153 of 23 September by Barysau district executive committee imposed a ban on canvassing activities at road and railway facilities, as well as within 50 meters of local executive, judicial, prosecuting buildings. Canvassing is also prohibited outside the organizations in charge of defense capability, security of the State and life-sustaining activities (public transport, water and energy supply services, hospitals, schools and other educational establishments).
Maladechna executive authorities issued a decision, imposing a ban on canvassing activities within 50 meters of the governmental buildings and organizations in charge of ‘defense capability, security of the State and life-sustaining activities.’ The ban also covers the town’s Tsentralnaya square and a plaza outside the local Palace of Culture.
The authorities provided no explanations for the ban, leaving no hope for efficient canvassing activities in the town.
Hrodna city executive committee has released a special decree, enumerating the public places banned for election campaigning activities. Thus, most of the city’s public places cannot be used for collecting signatures for presidential candidates.
Similar lists have been published by the executive authorities of a number of Mahiliou region northern areas, including Bialynichy, Kruhlaye and Shklou districts.
Decision #1189 of 22 September 2010 by Homel city executive committee imposed a ban on canvassing activities in the majority of local public places, referring to Article 61 of the Electoral Code. The decision names local Palace of Culture of the Deaf as the only authorized canvassing location, situated on the outskirts of the city.
The majority of executive committees of Homel region echoed the decision, putting even more restrictions by banning canvassing for signatures ‘in the places where such activities may be an obstacle to the operation of enterprises, organizations or establishments or endanger the life and health of the events’ participants.’ Similar bans were issued by the authorities of Mazyr, Homel, Karma, Buda-Kashaliova, Chachersk, Zhytkavichy, Petrukau and Brahin districts.
The executive authorities of Svetlahorsk banned holding canvassing activities within 25 (instead of 50) meters of ‘most vital buildings.’
Following a long-standing tradition, Babruisk authorities have banned canvassing activities in most of the town’s public places ‘in order to maintain public order and security in streets, squares and other public places.’, referring to ‘Mass Events Act’.
The restriction list is enormous: railway and bus stations, bus stops, governmental buildings, housing departments, medical, cultural, sports and educational facilities.
Canvassing is also prohibited in the town’s two central squares – Lenin square and Victory square.
Decision #1209 of 20 September 2010 imposed a ban on canvassing activities within 100 meters of the majority of the town’s buildings, leaving no opportunities for maintaining election campaigning.
‘Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections’