Regional authorities change decisions concerning prohibition to collect signatures in support of candidates for presidential position
According to the decision adopted on 30 September, the Brest City Executive Committee has significantly extended the opportunities for picketing aimed at collecting signatures for candidates. The new decision prohibits to collects signatures at less than 50-meter distance from the buildings of the local administrations, the institutions that respond for the defense and security of Belarus and supply to population with water, heating and electricity.
Meanwhile, the earlier decision, dated 17 September, forbade collecting signatures on the Lenin Square and the homonymous street, the Svabody Square and the Ikonnikau Park, Savetskaya Street, Gogol and Mickiewicz streets, Masherau Avenue, at the bus station, objects of the railway and water transport and in the memorial complex Brest Fortress-Hero. The local human rights defenders considered it as a violation of the electors’ rights and filed a lawsuit to the Leninski District Court of Brest. However, the lawsuit was withdrawn after the adoption of the decision of 1 October.
The new decision #1234 of the Pinsk Town Executive Committee was published in the newspaper Pinski Vesnik, #78, dated 1 October 2010. In its earlier decision the local authorities banned collecting signatures at a distance of 50 meters from the territories of industrial enterprises and the agencies and organizations to ensure security and existential needs of the population (railway and bus stations, bus stops, dormitories, water, heat and electricity stations, banks, communication centers, education and health institutions, sports facilities, shops, markets, and cult objects). The new decision states only that picketing for collecting the signatures is banned at the objects ‘that provide security and existential needs of the population’, but doesn’t provide any list of such enterprises and institutions.
On one hand, the decision seems to extend the opportunities of members of the electoral teams. On the other hand, the to empower the members of initiative groups to collect signatures, on the other – the term ‘objects that provide security and existential needs of the population’ may be applied even to a grocery store.
On 30 September the Rechytsa District Executive Committee adopted amendments and supplements to its ruling of 20 September where it had determined the places where it was forbidden to collect signatures in support of the potential candidates for the presidential position.
According to these amendments, it is forbidden to hold pickets at a distance of less than 50 meters from the buildings and premises of the local administrations, television and radio, courts, procuracies, hospitals, clinics, kindergartens, schools and the agencies that provided the defense and security of the country’.
’Cultural objects, sports facilities, public transportation, water, heat and electricity enterprises’ – were removed from the list. It could be considered as certain liberalization. However, the amendment includes an interesting line: ‘the picketing for collecting signatures is prohibited in the places where it could hinder the functioning of enterprises, organizations, institutions or present a danger to life and health of participants of the pickets’. This provision gives wide powers to those who want to create obstacles to the picketers, because theoretically such pickets can ‘hinder’ somebody in any part of the town.
As it has been already noted by Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections, the Baran Town Executive Committee banned the electoral picketing for collecting signatures at the stops of the public transport. This decision was strongly criticized by activists of the electoral teams, because picketing at the stops of the public transport was permitted even in the largest town of the district – Orsha.
As a result, the Baran authorities issued ruling #168, About the introduction of amendments to ruling #166 of 21.09.2010, allowing to collect signatures at the stops.
The observers consider such changes in the moods of the regional authorities as evidence of their non-professionalism and dependence.
Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections