Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections: Procedure of signature verification absolutely non-transparent
The procedure of signature verification is totally closed to observers, say activists of the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign at a press-conference held in Viasna’s Minsk office on 27 August.
Observers were allowed monitoring the submitted nominations in only 4 constituencies out of 110. In other constituencies signatures were not verified at the sittings of election commissions, despite the fact that the Electoral Code does not provide for the type of election activities.
As a result, observers say they cannot be sure whether the procedures of signature verification met the requirements of the election legislation.
Current conditions for observers’ work are worse than during the 2010 presidential election, said Aleh Hulak, leader of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee. “There is less transparency. Apart from that, facts of pressure against observers have already been reported. Baranavichy activist Siarhei Housha was charged with an administrative offence and later fined for merely implementing his duties,” says Mr. Hulak.
At the same time, human rights defenders say there are certain positive developments in the current election campaign. “The amendments to the Electoral Code enforced back in 2010 have facilitated the procedure for registration of candidates. The CEC’s Decree of July 5, 2012 was also meant to liberalize the procedures, saying that understatement of annual income (in case the difference amounts for over 20 % of the overall income) should be considered as “the relevant level of invalid data stated in income tax declarations”. During the 2010 election, the rate was 10 %,” says the Report released by the campaign following the end of the candidates’ registration election stage.
122 potential candidates were denied registration (24.6 % of the overall amount of nominees). During the 2008 parliamentary elections, the number of denials was nearly the same – 24 %.
Election commissions denied registration to 19.5 % of nominees from the opposition political parties: BPF, UCP, BSDP (Hramada) and the Fair World Left Party.
The majority of denials deal with nominations by signature collection. Most of them were dismissed due to large numbers of invalid signatures and irregularities in income tax declarations.
“The procedures for registration of candidates still look like a set of artificial hurdles, as much data failed to be written with the voter’s own hand have been considered as invalid. As for invalid information in tax declarations, why should a candidate submit the data, when it has already been reported to state organs? The potential candidates should have been allowed to authorize using data on their incomes and property, because election commissions keep requesting for the information at government bodies,” says Aleh Hulak.
Potential candidates who had been denied registration were not allowed receiving their signature sheets, says Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. “Members of election commissions said that the papers had already been submitted to the CEC. As a result, potential candidates could not properly appeal the denials,” says Mr. Stefanovich.
Human rights defenders also report instances of using pressure against nominees. In particular, Rahachou activist Dzianis Dashkevich was questioned by the KGB. Vileika resident Iosif Matsiunia, who was aid to be running in the same constituency with pro-government candidate, head of the KGB’s economic security department, Viktar Rusak, was eventually forced to withdraw form the elections, saying that he and his family was harassed by the state security agents.
“Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”