Weekly Report of Observation Results # 7
September 3-9, 2012
- The campaigning is low-profile: candidate debates take place in few districts only, information boards in many districts remain empty; there is no mass distribution of printed campaign materials.
- The Central Election Commission ruled to prohibit participation of candidates’ agents in debates in case the agents ran for mandate in other districts. The ruling is contrary to Article 46 of the Election Code, which allows participation of candidates’ agents indebates without any limitations.
- TV-presentations of the opposition candidates and their platforms continue to undergo censorship in the state press. Observers register facts of usage of the administrative resource in favor of the pro-governmental candidates.
- Election campaigning takes place in the climate of pressure on democratic candidates and civic activists from the state bodies.
- The Supreme Court heard the complaints about denial of registration to candidates. One of 17 complaints was satisfied.
On 5 September the Central Election Commission gathered for a meeting, where it adopted a Resolution clarifying provisions of the Election Code regarding candidate debates. Candidates are prohibited from participating in the debate as agents of another candidate. In support of its decision the Central Election Commission refers to the provisions of the Election Code that ensure equal legal conditions for campaigning for all candidates.
According to Lidia Yarmoshyna, "candidates registered as agents of other candidates, extend their opportunities to campaign for themselves<...>. When the electoral law was written, it was assumed that a candidate would participate in the debate him- or herself. If candidates cannot do that physically, then it could be done by their agents. It did not occur to anyone that it could turn into an opportunity to extend campaigning possibilities for one candidate.”
The reason for that decision was the September 4 debate on TV channel "Belarus 2", where UCP leader Anatol Liabedzka took part as an agent for candidate Uladzimir Ramanouski. The CEC resolution served as the legal basis for refusing to broadcast the recorded speech of the BPF Party Chairman Aliaksei Yanukevich as an agent for candidate Alexander Kuzniatsou.
The decision of the Central Election Commission is an unprecedented case of making changes to the rules of campaigning during the campaign period. As a result, contrary to CEC motivation, the Resolution had the opposite effect: some of the agents who were also candidates in other districts had had an opportunity to speak in the debate for other candidates, while the others did not have that chance. That violates the principle of equal opportunities for campaigning.
Election campaign activities are under way: candidates’ speeches on television and radio, TV debates, pickets and meetings with voters. This election campaign cannot be called dynamic. Despite the fact that there are 100 more candidates registered for this parliamentary election than for the previous one, by no means all of them use the opportunity of holding street events. In particular, only 73 candidates submitted applications for pickets, 40 of them -- in Minsk.
Election debates did not become too common either. Thus, in Hrodna region there will be no debates in any of the districts; there will be debates in 14 districts in Minsk, in 8 districts in Brest and Vitebsk regions each, in 5 districts of Mahiliou region, and in 2 districts in Minsk and Homel regions each. The district election commissions accepted applications for participation in debates only until August 23; it can be argued that the debates in most districts will not take place because the candidates showed no interest.
In a number of districts the candidates, especially the pro-government ones, refuse to participate in debates. In Baranavichy-Zakhodniaya district #57 Volha Palityka, member of Baranavichy City Council running for the parliamentary mandate, refused to take part in TV debates with the candidate of the BPF Party Mikalai Charnavus and UCP candidate Anzhela Kambalava. The same happened in Pinsk city election district #14, in Pruzhany district # 9, etc.
There is little time left before the Election Day. Still, in some districts information boards for campaign materials are practically empty or partially filled with platforms of the pro-governmental candidates. At the same time, we do not observe massive distribution of leaflets, newspapers, or other informational and promotional materials. Candidates nominated by opposition political parties do not produce printed materials at public expense, as they do not want to return the money spent on them to the state budget when the parties withdraw their candidates from the election.
As of September 5, 69 candidates created their personal election donation funds.
Some candidates campaign by organizing meetings with voters in places determined by Minsk city executive committee (according to Article 45.1 of the Election Code), but the general public does not show much interest to them. Activists of "Belaya Rus" and the Belarusian Republican Youth Union carry out pickets in support of the pro-government candidates and against boycott of the elections. Minsk city executive committee did not satisfy any requests for holding mass events in support of boycott submitted by BCD and other opposition parties.
We have registered facts of mass media refusing to publish platforms of opposition candidates, and numerous cases of censorship of campaign materials. Babruiskaye Zhytstsio newspaper refused to publish the election platform of Matsvei Khatary, UCP candidate in Babruisk-Leninski district #78. Zviazda and Respublika newspapers will not print the platform of Yuri Khashchavatski, UCP candidate in Kastrychnitski election district # 7 in Minsk. Nash Krai newspaper asked BPF Party candidate in Baranavichy-Zakhodniaya district # 5 Mikalai Charnavus to cut out criticism of the government from his platform. Newspaper Mahiliouskiya Vedamastsi censored Lilia Sivakova’s election platform, candidate of the Belarusiam Left Party "Fair World" in Mahiliou-Kastrychnitskaya district #86, etc.
Observers register massive use of administrative resources in support of pro-government candidates. Tatsiana Kananchuk, head of Slauharad rayon council and rayon organization of Belaya Rus, running in Bykhau district # 81, held a meeting with employees of Bykhau bakery during working hours. Administration of Maladechna school # 9 organized the teaching staff and parents of students to meet Stanislau Kulesh, director of “Biarezinskaye” company running for the parliamentary mandate in Maladechna rural district # 73.
Ryhor Kastusiou from BPF Party and Zinaida Mileshchanka from BLP "Fair World", both running in Shklou district # 90, filed a complaint to the district election commission that their opponent – deputy chairman of the State Control Committee Alexander Aheyeu – was misusing his official position in his campaign.
Meanwhile, there are cases when officials counteract placement of opposition candidates’ campaign materials on information boards and their meetings with voters. Brest division of "Belpochta" (state post service) and "Belfarmatsiya" (state pharmacy network) refused to provide space for campaign posters of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) candidates at all post offices and pharmacies in the city of Brest. On September 7 the leadership of the agricultural production cooperative "Slavutsichy" in Zelva rayon ordered to stop a meeting with voters organized by candidates Ivan Sheha (BPF) and Mikhail Karatkevich (BLP "Fair World") in Slonim district #58.
Persecution and Detentions
The election campaign takes place on the background of persecution of some opposition candidates, civic activists, and political structures.
On September 4 Leanid Padbiaretski, candidate in Mahiliou-Leninskaya district #84, was detained in Mahiliou during a street picket. Later the police returned the information stand and dropped the charges of violation of the order of holding mass events against the candidate.
On September 5 Yahor Viniatski, activist of the "Tell the truth" campaign, was arrested and sentenced to 7 days in jail. On September 6 the organization’s office was searched, and the campaign materials were seized. On September 7 the police detained activists of Zmena, the youth wing of the "Tell the Truth" campaign, Pavel Vinahradau and Alexander Artsybashau.
According to the Central Election Commission, altogether there are 3,690 domestic election observers accredited to observe the election the Chamber of Representatives. The vast majority of the observers—over 3,000 -- have been nominated by public associations, among them: Belarusian Association of Veterans – 800 observers, "Belaya Rus" - 707, BRSM - 615, and the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus – 496.
The political parties nominated 189 observers. Among them, the pro-governmental Communist Party of Belarus has 182 accredited representatives. Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), BPF Party, and the Republican Party of Labor and Justice have two observers each, and UCP has one accredited observer.
 CEC closed the campaigning loophole for opposition candidates: http://naviny.by/rubrics/elections/2012/09/05/ic_media_video_623_7130/.