Weekly report of observation results # 8
- On September 15 the United Civic Party (UCP) and BPF Party cancelled their decisions of candidate nomination. The parties said the ground was continued existence of political prisoners in the country and lack of positive change in the election environment, including failure to include representatives of the opposition forces in election commissions.
- With the drop-out of the UCP and BPF candidates the number of non-competitive(one-candidate) districts reached 15.
- There was continued censorship of TV and radio presentations of the opposition candidates and their programs that were presented for printing. At the same time, the Supervisory Council for Mass Media refused to incorporate representatives of non-state media and Belarusian Association of Journalists as its members.
- Campaign events of opposition candidates encounter obstacles from the executive authorities. Such cases are especially common in the regions. Meanwhile, the pro-governmental candidates often enjoy favorable conditions for organizing meetings with voters, usage of administrative resource is not a rare case.
- Less than one in four candidates used the right to create private election donation funds: as of September 16 only 80 accounts have been opened. Opposition candidates talk about bureaucratic obstacles created by commissions when trying to open a bank account. State-owned and private printing-shops refused to print the materials financed from private election funds of the opposition candidates.
Leading Opposition Parties Withdraw Their Candidates
On September 15 UCP and BPF Party cancelled their decision of candidate nomination and stated that they would submit the appropriate papers to the Central Election Commission on September 17. The parties said the ground for withdrawal was continued existence of political prisoners in the country and lack of positive change in the election environment, including non-inclusion of the opposition representatives in election commissions. UCP pointed out, the Election Code still provides ample opportunities for manipulation with the election results during the 5-day early voting process.
Among the political parties in opposition it was UCP and BPF Party that nominated the largest number of candidates, 35 and 31, respectively. The opposition parties that continue to run candidates are the Belarusian Left Party “Fair World” (29 candidates), and Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) (11). Also, 1 candidate from the non-registered organizing committee of the Party of Freedom and Progress, as well as candidates nominated by signature collection and supported by the unregistered “Tell the Truth” campaign and the registered public association “The Movement for Freedom” continue to take part in the election.
Of the non-opposition parties, Liberal Democratic Party runs 70 candidates, Communist Party of Belarus – 21, The Republican Party of Labor and Justice – 8, Agrarian Party – 1, and Social Sports Party – 1 candidate.
Resulting from candidate withdrawal by leading opposition parties, there will be 15 non-alternative districts in this election:
1. Baranavichy-Westdistrict #5
2. Baranavichy rural district #7
3. Belavezha district #8
4. Pruzhany district #9
5. Pinsk urban district #14
7. Vaukavysk district # 48
8. Hrodna rural district #52
9. Masty district #56
10. Navahradak district #57
11. Smarhon district #59
12. Shchuchyn district #60
13. Barysau district #62
14. Vileika district #74
15. Zaslauye district #77
In Hrodna 6 out of 13 districts are non-competitve. In Brest region – there are 5, in Minsk region – 3, and in Homel region – 1 non-competitive district. In total, their number is similar to the number of non-competitive districts at parliamentary election in 2008 (16), but higher than at parliamentary election in 2004 (8 non-competitive districts). Traditionally, non-competitive elections in districts are more typical for rural areas. In Minsk, election competitiveness is a typical thing.
Censorship of Platforms and Presentations in Mass Media
During this week the local and national media published candidates’ programs. A number of opposition candidates claim that the platforms they submitted for publishing have been censored.
11 UCP candidates did not manage to publish their programs in state-owned media. For instance, Barysau rayon newspaper Mayak refused to publish the program of Alexander Kabanau, UCP candidate in Pruzhany district # 9. Biaroza rayon newspaper Mayak decided not to publish the platform of Valiantsin Lazarenkau, candidate of BSDP (H) in Ivatsevichy district #11. The photo on the campaign poster of Uladzimir Nepomniashchykh, candidate in Homel-Navabelitskaya district # 36 was photoshoped in order to delete the slogan on the candidate’s T-shirt. 33 out of 68 possible TV and radio presentations of the UCP candidates were not broadcasted.
Hrodna regional newspaper Perspektyva refused to publish the program of BPF Party candidate Ales Straltsou (Hrodna rural district #52) in the languages of the national minorities (Polish and Lithuanian), living in the areas near the borders with Poland and Lithuania. BPF Party considers this a violation of a candidate’s right to campaign. The state-owned mass media provide little coverage of the election. Together with the platforms of the pro-governmental candidates they publish articles about their achievements, and stories with abrupt criticism of the opposition candidates. The Supervisory Council for Mass Media did not approve the proposal of Ihar Lialkou, BPF Party representative with advisory mandate in CEC, to incorporate journalists from the Belarusian Association of Journalists and independent Nasha Niva newspaper in the Supervisory Council for Mass Media. Thus, the Supervisory Council for Mass Media continues to consist only of representatives of the pro-governmental Belarusian Union of Journalists and state-owned media.
Election debates as a new means of campaigning took place in the minority of districts. In some districts, the candidates who declared their intention to participate in the debates have been denied this right. That is, in Slonim district #58 BPF candidate Ivan Sheha and BLP "Fair World" candidate Mikhail Karatkevich were denied their right to debate. The CEC turned down the complaint filed by Ivan Sheha. Thus in Hrodna region we did not record a single case of radio or television election debates.
Altogether, 31 debate sessions were pre-recorded and later broadcasted on TV. 7 debates were not broadcasted because the candidates advocated for boycott of the election.
Opposition candidates claim that the sites determined for holding meetings with voters are mostly inconvenient and seldom visited. At the same time, they face difficulties in using the premises determined for meetings with voters. Premise owners often refuse to provide them for meetings claiming that they are occupied. Authorities hinder spreading information about the meetings of candidates with voters.
Pro-governmental candidates have meetings at enterprises organized for them during working hours. The state structures support one of the five candidates in Brest-Zakhodniaya district #1, general director of Brest CUM Viktar Valiushytski. His meetings with voters, visited by local administration, take place during working hours at various enterprises. The hospitals and clinics of the rayon, as well as shops of Sante network post only the printed materials of the pro-governmental candidate Viktar Valiushytski.
Administrative resource is also used for organizing meetings with voters of Uladzimir Dziedushukin, head of Orsha rayon executive committee running in Orsha-Dniepr district #27.
During the meeting of deputy head of the Committee for State Control Alexander Aheyeu with employees of “Babushkina Krynka” company, the company’s administration attempted not to allow Ryhor Kastusiou, deputy head of BPF Party, to come to the meeting.
Vitebsk rayon executive committee failed to provide a possibility for Leanid Autokhou’s (BPF) proxy to carry out a picket in Buyany village (Vitebsk rayon) under the declarative procedure (part 2 of Article 45-1 of the Electoral Code). Chyhunachny rayon court of Vitebsk failed to hear the complaint about that within the legal three-day period.
On September 11, in Khotsimsk of Mahiliou region, BPF candidate Valery Karankevich (Krychau district # 83) was holding a campaign picket in a permitted place. The picket was stopped by police officers, while the candidate was detained and taken to the local police station for giving explanations.
Election Private Funds and Campaigning with Them
The minority of candidates used the right to create private election funds. As of September 16, only 80 accounts for election donations have been opened. Opposition candidates speak about obstacles created by election commissions when trying to open an account.
State-owned and private printing houses refused to print the campaign materials funded from the private election funds of the opposition candidates. BPF Party claims, 15 private printing houses refused to print BPF Party materials. Others referred to heavy workload.
State-owned printing houses " Yanka Kupala Printing Plant", "Minsk Factory of Color Print", and "Red Star" also refused to provide services to the BPF Party. Only 3 of the 31 candidates from the BPF were able to use their private campaign funds and print flyers. At the same time, BPF candidate Alexander Straltsou, who is running in Hrodna rural district #52, was officially warned by the district election commission for failure to specify full printing data on the flyers. State printing company "Tytul" in Rechytsa, Homel region, refused to print 10,000 copies of campaign materials for Anton Nefiodau, running in Rechytsa district #44.
Candidate in Vitebsk-Chkalauski district # 18 Aliaksei Haurutsikau and candidate in Vitebsk-Horki district #17 Alena Famina could not get their campaign materials in time from the state-owned printing house. Without campaign flyers they have difficulties in organizing an effective campaign.
Observers from all over the country report, there are very few campaign materials spread in districts. Campaign visual materials are hardly visible in the places determined for campaigning.