Election observers: “We will keep our eyes open throughout the election”
The Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign has launched a nation-wide election observation campaign ahead of the September parliamentary election at a press-conference held in Viasna’s office today.
Elections are a major social and political event; its progress and results are closely connected with human rights, said Aleh Hulak, leader of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.
The campaign activists are also expected to monitor the atmosphere of the upcoming election. “The situation in Belarus is very difficult at the moment; it is extremely unfavourable for holding elections, as the country still holds political prisoners, and political and civil activists are still being arrested. Therefore, the country is overtaken by an atmosphere of terror. Recent calls by several opposition politicians to boycott the election show that people do not believe in fair elections, emphasizing lack of confidence in the campaign’s ability to perform its primary function, i.e. foster change of power. This reduces the value of the elections, but it does not mean that they are going to be rigged. We will apply an unbiased approach to the election observation, in order to cover the actual situation,” says Mr. Hulak.
It is the voters’ turnout that is expected to be at the focus of the campaign’s attention. “The parliamentary elections do not so far draw so much public attention as the presidential elections do. Therefore, the authorities may use their secret means to artificially boost the voters’ turnout, forcing them to cast their ballots. In these circumstances, we have to focus on the turnout, to keep an eye on the figures the election commissions will have to publish every day,” says Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy chair of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”.
The Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign are going to involve some 400 observers in 106 constituencies. “Our activities have been watched over by both the media and the Central Election Commission. The KGB has already inquired what we are going to do during the elections. We would like the authorities to react to our comments and take legal steps following the violations we will record,” says Aleh Hulak.
The human rights defenders are confident that the election monitoring campaign will be comprehensive, despite the fact that the observation is expected to be held in adverse conditions, when Viasna leader Ales Bialiatski is in jail and its office is about to be seized. The observers have already been instructed and are sure to use their skills, says Aleh Hulak.
The campaign will make use of the experience gained during the previous elections. The Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections are going to work jointly for the fourth time this year. “The most difficult work is that of our lawyers who will draft appeals against violations reported by the observers. Unfortunately, neither the prosecuting authorities nor the courts tend to consider them properly. However, we are going to collect information on election violations to monitor the situation. We will keep our eyes open during the entire election campaign,” says BCH head.