Report on Monitoring the Formation of Precinct Election Commissions

2012 2012-08-14T04:31:59+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/zasvabodnyjavybarylogo-en.png The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

General Conclusions

  1. Representatives of NGOs and political parties loyal to the regime dominate in the precinct election commission members. These entities have increased their representation in the precinct commissions from 41.5% in 2010 to 45.2% in 2012.
  2. The proportion of opposition parties’ representatives is about 0.1% (61 out of 68, 945) in the total number of PEC member; they are represented in less than 1% of the commissions. This excludes the opponents of the government from organizing the voting and vote counting, and thus makes it impossible to influence the work of precinct election commissions.
  3. The quota introduced in the Election Code in 2010 (Article 34) of having no less than a third of political party and NGO representatives in PEC is filled by higher representation of the pro-governmental associations and political parties. That does not add to greater pluralism in precinct election commissions and leaves the executive power in full control over the vote count.  
  4. In overwhelming majority of cases the precinct election commissions were formed in a non-transparent way, by approval of a proposed list of individuals prepared in advance. In a number of cases the observers did not have an opportunity to observe the decision-making procedure. Absence of selection criteria allows for manipulation by the bodies of the executive power.

1. Legal Regulation of Forming Precinct Election Commissions

According to Articles 28 and 34 of the Election Code election to the House of Representatives are prepared and conducted by precinct election commissions. They are formed by the rayon and city executive committees; and in cities with rayon division – by local administrations.

Political parties and public associations should be represented by at least one-third of PEC members. The commissions may not include judges, prosecutors, and heads of local executive and administrative bodies. The number of public servants should not exceed one-third of the commission.

 

Representatives of political parties, public associations, work collectives, and citizens, who nominated their representatives, are entitled to be present during meetings of the bodies that form PEC. Meanwhile, the provisions of Article 13 of the Election Code do not provide guidance on the powers of observers at this stage of the election campaign, which is used to restrict observation of the decision-making process of PEC formation.

The decision of the bodies that formed the precinct commissions may be appealed in court within three days by the entities which had nominated their representatives to the commissions.

Precinct election commissions consist of representatives of political parties, public associations, labor collectives, as well as representatives of citizens who are nominated by signature collection.

The Election Code limits the ability of political parties and public associations to nominate representatives to the precinct commissions in comparison with nomination to the district election commissions (DEC). Nomination to precinct commissions can be done only by organizational structures of political parties and associations that have state registration, or are put on record with the local authorities. Thus, national associations which do not have organizational structures are generally unable to participate in the electoral process as part of precinct commissions. In the run up to the election, some organizations (Minsk city and regional organizations of the Movement for Freedom, Hrodna organization of the BPF Party) tried to register the local organizational structures but were refused. As a result, they fell under the restriction of the Election Code and did not have the right to nominate their members to the precinct commissions.

 

2. Nomination to Precinct Election Commissions

There have been no information on the authorities refusing to accept documents for nomination of candidates to precinct commissions from any entities. However, there is a significant discrepancy between the figures of nominees to PECs, voiced by the  opposition parties and the figures announced by the Central Election Commission. For example, the United Civil Party (UCP) declared nomination to the precinct commissions of 296 of its members, while the CEC official documents show a figure of 240[1] UCP nominees. Similar discrepancies exist in the official and party nomination statistics  of the Belarusian Left Party "Fair World" and the BPF Party.

Altogether, according to the Central Election Commission, 84,781 people were nominated to precinct commissions, out of them: representatives nominated by citizens by signature collection -- 32,908 (38.8%), by labor collectives - 15,375 (18.1%), and by political parties and other public associations - 36,498 (43%).

Pro-governmental associations led in nomination to PEC: the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus – 10,400 nominees (over 12%), Belaya Rus – 4,799 (6%), the Belarusian Republican Youth Union – 4,345 (5%), the Belarusian Union of Women – 4,037 (5%), and the Belarusian Public Association of Veterans – 3,138 (3.7%). For instance, in Vitebsk region, those entities nominated 85% of applicants from public associations, or 32% of the total number of the people nominated to PEC. The nomination activity of these organizations has not shown any serious change in comparison with the presidential election in 2010, but has grown a lot in comparison with the parliamentary elections in 2008.

In general, in this election campaign, the proportion of representatives of political parties and public organizations nominated to precinct commissions has increased to 42%. During the presidential election of 2010 it amounted to 39.1%[2]. Respectively, in 2012 the number of representatives nominated to PECs by citizens and labor collectives declined.

Just as during the 2010 election, 10 of the 15 registered political parties nominated their representatives to PEC in this campaign. At the same time, the political parties and associations loyal to the authorities have increased their activity. For example, the Republican Party of Labor and Justice nominated 832 people, which is twice the number nominated in 2010.

In comparison with 2010, the opposition parties have decreased their activity: during the 2010 presidential elections the 1,073 nominees of the oppositional political parties made up 1.3% of the total number of nominees. Today, 664 representatives nominated by the five oppositional parties are only about 0.8% of the total number of nominees. According to the Central Election Committee, the Belarusian Left Party "Fair World" nominated 216 people, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party ("Hramada") - 30, UCP - 240, BPF - 158, and the Belarusian Party "The Greens" - 20. The share of opposition activists among all those nominated by political parties and public associations was 3.2% in 2010, and only 1.8% in 2012.

Unregistered political entities -- the Party of Belarusian Christian Democracy (BCD) and the "Tell the Truth" campaign used signature collection procedure in order to nominate their representatives to precinct commissions. BCD says it has nominated 171 representatives.

 

3. Meetings of Local Authority Bodies for Forming Precinct Election Commissions

Some observers had problems with access to meetings of bodies forming the PEC. There have been facts of concealing information about the time of meetings. Some executive committees rejected the right of the observers to attend the meetings, in violation of Part 2 of Article 39 of the Law "On Local Government and Self-government". Such cases were recorded in Hlubokaye, Vileyka, Lahoisk, Maladechna, Orsha, and Vitebsk rayon executive committees, etc.

Meetings of executive committees and local administrations were held in conditions of relative openness to the observers. However, they were rather formal, as one could see from their nature and duration. In the vast majority of regions the voting procedure boiled down to a quick and uncontested approval of commission lists, prepared before a meeting in a non-transparent manner. According to observers, Biaroza executive committee needed only 6 (six) minutes to approve 486 out of 515 nominees, Pruzhany executive committee -- 12 minutes to approve 558 out of 701, etc. At the meeting of executive committee, head of department for HR and organizational work reported only the number of the applications filed and the number of members of each precinct committee. As a result of a vote, precinct election commissions in Smaliavichy rayon consist of 80% of the people engaged in PEC during the 2010 presidential election. The meeting of Salihorsk executive committee lasted for 15 minutes, at which it approved 691 out of 741 applications, failing to report on how candidates to PEC had been nominated, which political parties and organizations nominated them, as well as the reasons why some candidates were included, while the others were denied.

Zero competition to become PEC members was observed at the meetings of Lahoisk, Ivatsevichy, Verkhniadzvinsk and some other executive committees.

In some rayon, city executive committees, and local administrations, observers had the opportunity to review the PEC nomination materials. However, in a lot of places the bodies that create precinct commissions did not let observers and interested persons read through those materials. Thus, the observers were unable to check the legitimacy of nomination to precinct commissions, while the principle of openness and transparency of the election procedures was not ensured.

The regional press and the websites of city and rayon executive committees published information on the membership of precinct election commissions, which consists primarily just of the name, surname, patronymic and the way of nomination. Information about the place of work is not made public, because just as during the previous elections, election commissions are formed and operate on the place of work basis. Various nomination procedures are used by the authorities in order to disguise the state control over the electoral process.

No meeting was held on the formation of the precinct commission at a polling station, established in Stockholm. As a result of the Belarusian-Swedish diplomatic conflict the staff of the Belarusian Embassy in Sweden has been called off, and the above-mentioned polling station has been liquidated.

 

4. Analysis of the PEC Composition

According to official data[3], 6,301 precinct commissions (excluding the PEC outside the country) of 68,945 members were formed in the Republic of Belarus.

 

 

Representatives of public associations, including political parties, made up 45.3% in the precinct commissions, representatives of labor collectives - 16.2%, representatives of citizens nominated by signature collection -- 38.5%. In comparison with the 2010 presidential election the role of labor collectives as actors in the electoral process has decreased by almost 4%, while the role of NGOs has increased by 3.5%.

On the average, 1.2 people competed for a place in a precinct commission. This figure is quite different in Minsk -- 1.6.

In the total number of PEC members proportion of representatives of four opposition parties today is about 0.1% (61 out of 68, 945). In the presidential election of 2010 the share of the five opposition parties was 0.26% (183 out of 70,815).

  

Comparison of the “passing” percentage of the pro-governmental and opposition political parties and NGOs gives ground to speak about the discriminatory approach in PEC formation.

 

 

Political party/NGO

 

Nominated to PEC

 

Included in PEC

%

Passing

 

 

Pro-governmental parties and NGOs

1.

Belarusian Agrarian Party

571

485

85%

2.

The Communist Party of Belarus

845

635

75%

3.

The Republican Party

262

235

90 %

4.

Republican Party of Labor and Justice

832

704

85 %

5

Belarusian Social Sports Party

609

551

90 %

6.

Belaya Rus

4799

4189

87 %

7.

BRSM

4345

3674

85 %

8.

Belarusian Union of Women

4037

3791

94 %

9.

The Belarusian Public Association of Veterans

3138

2635

84 %

10.

Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus

10400

9418

91 %

 

Opposition parties

11.

Belarusian Party "The Greens"

20

0

0 %

12.

Belarusian Left Party "Fair World"

216

39

18 %

13.

Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada)

30

5

17 %

14.

UCP

240

5

2 %

15.

BPF Party

158

12

8 %

 

In Minsk, the city with the highest political activity, the opposition parties nominated 186 representatives. None of them were included in the precinct election commissions (the “passing” percentage is 0). Despite high nomination activity in the districts where leaders of opposition groups are running (the leader of the Movement for Freedom Aliaksandr Milinkevich, leader of the BPF Party Aliaksei Yanukevich, leader of the organizing committee of the Party of Freedom and Progress Uladzimir Navasiad, and others), none of the opposition activists were included in the precinct commissions.

 

Appealing against Non-inclusion in Precinct Election Commissions

The process of appealing the decisions not to include nominees in PECs has begun. Belarusian Left Party "Fair World" appealed in court non-inclusion of their representatives in PEC in the city of Orsha. BPF Party filed complaints to the courts of Autazavodski, Pershamaiski and Leninski rayons of Minsk, as wells as to the court of Maladechna. Activists of Mahiliou regional branch of the BPF "Revival" NGO and Mahiliou regional branch of the Belarusian Left Party "Fair World" appealed to the Court of Leninski rayon of Mahiliou. Vitebsk regional committee of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) and the regional branch of the BPF party filed complaints against non-inclusion of their representatives in the precinct commissions in Vitebsk region.

In the city of Vitebsk, a group of voters who nominated Paul Levinau, appealed against the decision of Pershamaiski rayon administration about forming PEC #57 of the Vitebsk-Chkalauskaya district #18. The reason for appeal was the revealed numerous violations of nomination procedures. Voters revolted from the fact that Markouski, who discredited himself as a PEC chairman in the presidential election of 2010, and as a result was dismissed from his post and the work in the commission. The court dismissed the complaint. Results of other appeals will be reviewed in the following reports.

 

 



[1] Information on nomination of representatives to the precinct election commission on elections of deputies of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the fifth convocation. Access mode: http://www.rec.gov.by/Elections-PPNS5-Electoral.

[2] Corpus of electoral statistics, "Election of President of the Republic of Belarus  in 2010." Access mode: http://www.rec.gov.by/Elections-PRB.

[3] Information about composition of the precinct election commissions on elections of deputies of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the fifth convocation. Access mode: http://www.rec.gov.by/Elections-PPNS5-Electoral.

 

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