Central Election Commission introduces in electoral procedures ‘assistant member of electoral team’ athwart provisions of Electoral Code
Paragraph 6 of Resolution #47 adopted by the Central
Commission on holding elections and republican referenda (CEC) on 15 September
2010 obviously contradicts to paragraph 8 of part 16 of Article 61 of the
Paragraph 6 of Resolution #47 of the CEC, On interpretation of provisions of Article 61 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus regulating providing the procedure of collection of signatures in support of the persons proposed for nomination as candidates for President of the Republic of Belarus in 2010 of 15 September 2010 № 47 explains the procedure for completing signature sheets during the collection of electors’ signatures. According to the Resolution, information about an elector on the signature sheet may be filled by the elector as well as by another person at his request, or by a member of the campaign team.
Thus, by this Ruling the CEC permitted the people who are not members of the campaign teams to fill in signature sheets. It should be noted that during the presidential elections in 2001 and 2006, and parliamentary elections in 2008, similar rulings of the CEC did not provide the possibility to enter data in the signature sheets to other people on the elector’s request. The formulation that allows other people to enter the voters’ data in the signature sheets, appeared for the first during the election to local councils of deputies of the sixth convocation (paragraph 6 of the Ruling #10 of the Central Commission dated 21 January 2010). However, during the verification of the signatures gathered by the campaign teams, the circuit election commissions denied registration to some applicants due to the fact that the signatures on their allocation hadn’t been collected by members of the teams.
Thus, the Zavadski District Election Commission of Minsk refused to Electoral Commission refused to register Mikita Krasnou as a candidate for deputy because the signatures in support of his candidacy hadn’t been collected by members of his electoral team. This fact shows that the circuit commissions were guided by the requirements of Article 61 of the Electoral Code while checking the collected signatures.
On 23 October 2010 the Minsk City Election Commission considered the complaint by M. Krasnou and V. Dyianava about violations of the procedure of collection of signatures by members of the campaign team of Aliaksandr Lukashenka during a picket in front of the HUM department store and the Furniture House in Kharuzhai Street in Minsk. It was found that the signatures were collected by the people who weren’t members of the campaign team. These individuals participated in the electoral pickets and collected signatures there even during a long absence of members the campaign team. Citizens addressed them to put their signatures in support of the candidate. Thus, the individuals who were not members of the initiative group, in fact, organized the collection of signatures, not just entered the data in the voter signature sheets at electors’ requests. This fact wasn’t denied by the members of the campaign team A. Khmyl and H. Atamanava on whose behalf such signatures were collected. However, while taking a decision concerning the complaint of M.Krasnou and V. Dyianava the Minsk City Election Commission referred to the aforementioned paragraph 6 of the CEC Resolution #47 and has not established a violation of election laws.
Commenting on the complaint in an interview for the European Radio for Belarus, the secretary of the Central Election Commission M. Lazavik said that he had watched the video shot by M.Krasnou: ‘We gave an explanation that an assistant member of the campaign team has the right to fill in the subscription list and write the name and patronymic, passport data during the collection of signatures.’ Thus, the CEC secretary introduced in the electoral procedure the unauthorized term ‘assistant member of the campaign team" and gave him some authority contrary to the law.
Experts of Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections believe that such practice of usage of the Ruling of the CEC in question contradicts to the Electoral Code, which establishes a mandatory requirement of collecting signatures for nomination of presidential candidates (MPs) only by members their campaign teams. The Electoral Code provides a detailed regulation of procedures for the establishment and registration of campaign teams. Also, the Electoral Code has no provisions permitting to delegate to third parties the powers of members of campaign teams concerning the collection of signatures, and obliges the electoral commission to invalidate all signatures on a signature sheet if they were collected by a person who is not a member of a campaign team (paragraph 8, part 16 of Article 61 of the Electoral Code).
Such an arbitrary interpretation of the rules of signature collection by members of electoral teams has created grounds for the mass use of administrative resources in favor of the nomination of the incumbent. Observers of Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections recorded numerous cases of the collection of signatures for nomination of Aliaksandr Lukashenka by persons who are not members of his electoral team, as well as evidence of coercion to participate in such meeting government officials. For example, in Minsk journalists of the European Radio for Belarus got a schedule created by the department of the ideological and educational work of Education Department of the Leninski District Executive Committee of Minsk. According to this document, the educational institutions that were mentioned in it were required to submit two persons to participate in the picket lines to collect signatures for nomination of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, that is, for ‘assisting’ members of the electoral team. Existence of this document has been confirmed by a check-up conducted by the CEC.
Experts of Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections remind that Article 61 of the Electoral Code prohibits the administration to take part in collection of signatures, any forcing in the process of collecting signatures is prohibited, and violation of these provisions may be grounds for denying registration of a candidate for President of the Republic of Belarus. According to experts, these rules apply to cases of involvement of representatives of administrations in organizing the collection of signatures among their subordinates even when these people are on vacation leaves, as they are still perceived as bosses. In this regard, experts of Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections believe that the explanation of the admissibility of participation of representatives of administrations of organizations in collecting signatures in the off time given in the methodical recommendations The organizational and legal issues of preparation and holding of presidential elections in Belarus, adopted by the CEC ruling #43 of 15 September 2010, № 43, contradicts the requirements of Article 61 of the Electoral Code and contributed to the use of administrative resource in favor of the nomination of the present President as a candidate for another presidential term.
Representatives of Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections drew the attention of the territorial election (district, city and district in the city) commissions on elections of President of the Republic of Belarus to the need for strict compliance with the provisions of Article 61 of the Electoral Code during the verification of signatures collected by the initiative groups for nomination of candidates for President of the Republic of Belarus.