Parliamentary elections set for September 23
Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced at a government conference on Monday that September 23 would be the main voting day in this year's elections for the House of Representatives.
The central election commission will hold a meeting in Minsk on June 19 to discuss preparations for September's elections and adopt regulations governing election districts, explanations regarding the procedure of the elections and schedules for the elections for the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic.
Speaking at a meeting with Lidziya Yarmoshyna, head of the central election commission, earlier this month, Mr. Lukashenka stressed that the elections should be held openly, freely and on a competitive basis. “I still believe that this year we should not change ourselves to please someone. You’ve already concluded from our previous similar events that we won’t get appreciation from anyone. And we don’t need appreciation from anyone. We should be guided by our own regulations and constitution. We conduct parliamentary and other elections for ourselves, for our state, and it is the people who should decide who should work in our parliament on a fair and competitive basis.”
Belarus’ electoral regulations will not be changed before the elections because, firstly, it is too late to do that and because the OSCE recommends refraining from making any changes during the year preceding an election, Ms. Yarmoshyna said.
She noted that parliamentary candidates would for the first time have the opportunity to take part in television and radio debates.
Opposition forces are ready for September's parliamentary elections, politicians said on Monday. When reached by BelaPAN, Alyaksey Yanukevich, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, said that the party had been preparing to nominate members for district and territorial election commissions and put forward contenders for seats in the lower parliamentary chamber. The BPF's central office is finalizing campaign material and tutorials for activists who will be involved in the elections, he said. BPF parliamentary contenders will be nominated at the party's convention later in the summer.
Andrey Dzmitryyew, deputy chairperson of the "Tell the Truth!" movement, and Lew Marholin, deputy chairperson of the United Civic Party, noted that the organizations had already drawn up lists of their parliamentary nominees.
Vital Rymashewski, a co-chairperson of Belarusian Christian Democracy, said that the party was ready for a boycott of the coming elections. The party's activists in all of the country's regions plan to hold an active campaign to discourage voters from going to the polls, he said.
Alyaksandr Atroshchankaw, a coordinator of European Belarus, noted that the opposition group would also boycott the elections. "We see that people view the elections not even as a stage set but as some funeral rite. A boycott of the parliamentary elections is only part of a campaign of a general boycott of the dictatorial regime, which will be based on popular support," he said.
Valyantsin Stefanovich, who is a leader of a group called "Human Rights Defenders for Fair Elections," said that the group was already gearing up for organizing the observation of September's elections. He said that the group would field roughly 50 long-term observers, while more observers would monitor the voting at polling stations.
"We are not aiming to cover as many polling stations as possible," Mr. Stefanovich said. "It makes sense only when observers do have an opportunity to prevent vote rigging and somehow influence the course of the electoral process, so that it would be held in compliance with laws. Unfortunately, this is de facto impossible in our country."
Mr. Stefanovich said that long-term observers would focus on recording instances of authorities compelling people to cast ballots in the elections. With so many opposition forces calling for a boycott of the elections, authorities will likely seek to secure high voter turnout, the activist predicted.