Mazyr: conditions for canvassing are getting worse
The Mazyr District
Executive Committee determined the places where the candidates for President
and their proxies would be allowed to hold canvassing. The appropriate ruling
considerably reduced the number of places where indoor and outdoor electoral
meetings can be held and limited the number of places for putting electoral
materials in comparison with the previous election.
The first thing that strikes eyes in ruling #1386 of the Mazyr District Executive Committee of 8 November concerning the determining the places for canvassing in comparison to the previous election is the absence or modification of the expressions ‘creation of equal opportunities’, ‘free and all-sided discussion of the electoral programs of the candidates’, ‘to allow’, etc. Now they are replaced with more laconic and restrictive formulations, such as ‘creation of equal conditions’ and ‘to prohibit’.
Probably, the most positive moment in the ruling is that the canvassing is still permitted in the Culture Palaces of Mahiliou including the Mazyr Oil-Processing Plant, the Mazyr Town Culture Palace. In villages electoral meetings are permitted in the halls of executive committees and Culture Palaces.
The last point of the list of the places determined for outdoor canvassing, ‘the last stop of route #7 in the Kastrychnitski suburb’ was excluded from the present ruling. All other places remain: the Spartak stadium in the Tsentralny suburb, the Druzhba Park in the Druzhba suburb, the grounds near the Culture Houses in the Chynachny and the Zarechny suburbs. What concerns the Mazyr district – no places were determined for outdoor canvassing except for the Palesse stadium in the settlement of Kozenki.
What concerns the places for putting electoral materials, the important line ‘windows of shops, cultural and medical institutions’ is absent in the present ruling. It suggests that the Mazyr authorities are making everything possible to decrease the number of the electors who will read anything about the candidates. It is also visible in the structure of the document. The previous ruling recommended ‘the heads of enterprises, institutions and organizations to use the informational stands at the housing offices, dormitories, educational, cultural and medical institutions for placing the agitation materials of candidates for councils of deputies’. This provision is missing in the present ruling. Instead of it, there is point 2 that obliges them to ‘prohibit the unauthorized placement of the printed agitation materials about candidates for President of Belarus in the places that aren’t provided by subpoint 3.1 of the given ruling.’
Subpoint 3.1 of the ruling repeats all problematic provisions of the older ruling that can create tension between the candidates and representatives of cultural institutions, business firms, private entrepreneurs and other structures that place advertisement and information materials. Many of the informational stands are so small that they don’t have enough space for placing the electoral materials of 10 candidates (in the case all of the present pretenders will be registered). At the same time, Article 45, part 14 of the Electoral Code states that ‘removal, painting, posting and damaging posters if they were produced and placed with implementation of the requirements of the legislation of the Republic of Belarus are inadmissible’.
The situation is commented by the Mazyr human rights defender Uladzimir Tseliapun: ‘If we take into account that these notice boards have a limited format – the cultural establishments may be deprived of the opportunity to place their playbills and entrepreneurs and firms will have no place for advertisement during the stage of canvassing (that will last for almost a month and during which electoral posters and leaflets will be posted there). However, in the case they violate this norm of the Electoral Code they can be fined 350,000-700,000 rubles ($117-233) under Article 9.11 of the Code of Administrative Violations.’ The proposals of the local human rights defenders to produce special electoral pillars that could be put in the busiest places (near bus stops and markets) and notice boards (for putting them in polyclinics, shops, busses, etc.) are ignored by the Mazyr District Executive Committee.
Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections