Precinct election commissions: ‘discrimination coefficient’ remains the same

2010 2010-11-05T23:53:18+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On 5 November the civil campaign Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections held a press-conference on the results of the formation of precinct election commissions. The results that were announced by the Chairperson of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Aleh Hulak and the lawyer of the Human Rights Center Viasna Valiantsin Stefanovich are quite disappointing for those who expect some democratization of the election process. It was stated that representatives of opposition structures weren’t included in the commissions five times more often than representatives of the organizations that are loyal to the present authorities. ‘The coefficient of discrimination’, as Mr. Hulak called it, remains the same in comparison to the previous election.

The observers don’t deny that some improvements took place, but conclude that many of them remain in paper. They pointed that ‘some positive novelties in the electoral legislation in January 2010 didn’t change the essence of the process of the formation of the PECs: a total control from the side of the executive committees who are a part of the power vertical of the incumbent’. By positive changes they mean the restriction of the number of the state officials in the commissions, the guarantees of inclusion at least one third of representatives of political parties and NGOs and the possibility of appealing against the results of the formation of the commissions at court. Formally, such possibilities and proportions, but in practice everything is quite different.

As stated by Valiantsin Stefanovich, NGOs are represented at PECs by mainly five organizations: Belaya Rus, the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, the Belarusian Union of Women, the Belarusian Republican Youth Union and the Belarusian Public Association of Veterans. ‘Together they nominated 84.8% of candidates for the PECs from NGOs and trade unions’, stated the Viasna lawyer. ‘Thus, just 15.2% is left for all other public associations of the country. It means that these organizations act as the main organizers of the election,’ summed up the human rights defender. According to him, a similar tendency could be observed during the formation of the territorial election commissions.

The statistics concerning the inclusion of representatives of opposition parties look a little bit better: 17% (and 15% - during the formation of the territorial commissions). However, this slight improvement will hardly influence the general situation: only 0.25% of representatives of opposition parties will work in 3% of PECs throughout Belarus.

The human rights defenders point that during the formation of the PECs priority was evidently given to pro-governmental parties (87.7% of their nominees were included in the commissions), the four aforementioned pro-regime NGOs and the Federation of Trade Unions (a total of 93.2% of all candidacies for the commissions was nominated by all of them. By the way, sometimes 100% of the nominees of such NGOs as Belaya Rus and the Belarusian Union of Women were included in the PECs of the Minsk region.

As stated by Aleh Hulak, in Minsk the authorities usually explained the non-inclusion of oppositionists in the commissions by saying that they usually noticed defects and composed complaints instead of reaching agreements with other members of the commissions.

The PECs were often formed in the absence of observers, though in many cases the local authorities demonstrated a positive attitude to them and even invited them to their sittings. However, in some places (such as Babruisk) the situation was quite different – the observers weren’t admitted to the sittings at which the precinct commissions were formed and were told that their presence was unauthorized.

According to Mr. Hulak, the presence of observers at the sittings of the state organs is not provided by the electoral legislation. However, if observers aren’t allowed to monitor this stage of elections it presents a threat to the principle of transparency of elections. Most probably, the reason for the secretiveness of the authorities is that often members of the executive committees voted for all lists of members of executive committees at once, without discussing the candidacies. According to the facts that had been registered by the campaign observers and were voiced by Mr. Hulak, in some cases the lists of commissions including several thousand of members were adopted for 20 minutes.

Now the human rights defenders monitor the process of appealing. ‘Only our lawyers composed 77 complaints against the non-inclusion of people in the PECs’, said Aleh Hulak, and added that ‘all attempts to appeal the actions of the executive committees have been fruitless so far’. Nevertheless, he states that it is necessary to use all legal mechanisms, which will let either protect the legal rights and interests of citizens or provide documentary evidence of non-transparent conduct of the election. ‘Thus, this stage of the electoral campaign became a precautionary shower after the liberal stage of the collection of signatures,’ summed up the BHC Chairperson.

Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections