Monitoring Report on Election Campaigning

2012 2012-09-22T13:20:10+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en 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


Monitoring Report on Election Campaigning

September 22, 2012

The legal basis for this year’s election campaigning was the amended version of the Electoral Code, which extended campaigning opportunities as compared to the parliamentary elections in 2008; however, the use of the new standards was curtailed by the executive authorities, resulting in a large number of candidates from the opposition parties being unable to transmit their position to the voters. There were numerous recorded cases of bans on TV and radio presentations, censorship of addresses and election platforms of opposition candidates. This has seriously affected their rights, as well as the voters' rights to full and unbiased information about the candidates and their platforms[1].

Censorship in the media

The candidates were entitled to a five-minute speech on state radio and state television. The Supervisory Council for control over compliance with the rules and regulations of election campaigning in mass media (SC), created by the Central Election Commission, ruled that the speeches of the candidates representing the United Civil Party that called for a boycott of the elections, could not be considered election campaigning. Following the ruling by the SC, the Central Election Commission, in excess of its authority, adjusted the rules of electoral law. Its Decree #93 prohibited calls to boycott the elections in the candidates’ campaign speeches, which is contrary to Art. 45, 47 of the Electoral Code.

On the ground of the decision, television and radio companies began to massively refuse airtime to candidates who called for boycotting the election. On August 28 "Homel" TV-and-radio Company did not air the speech of Vasil Paliakou, UCP candidate in Homel-Savetskaya electoral district #34. TV channel "Belarus-2" failed to show the speeches of UCP candidates Adam Varanets (Homel rural electoral district #37) and Marat Afanasyeu (Buda-Kashaliova district #38). Candidates’ platforms prepared for publication in printed media were censored for the same reason.

Restrictions on TV and radio debates

Decree #122 of the Central Election Commission outlawed the participation in TV and radio debates of the election agents who are candidates themselves. This is contrary to Art. 46 of the Electoral Code, which allows candidates’ agents to debate instead of the candidate without any conditions or restrictions.

Election debates were held in the minority of districts: in Minsk - in 14 districts, in Brest and Vitsebsk - in 8 districts, each, in Mahiliou - in 5 districts, in Minsk and Homel regions - in 2 districts, each. There were no radio or television debates in Hrodna region. 7 debates were taken off the air because of campaigning for a boycott of the elections.

Campaign financing and the use of private campaign funds

The right to establish private campaign funds was used by less than a third of the candidates. Opposition candidates reported bureaucratic obstacles from the election commissions, which slowed the opening of their accounts. There were no registered instances of using campaign funds to pay for outdoor advertising or advertising on radio and television.

Public campaigning events

The public campaigning events staged by opposition candidates faced obstacles from the executive authorities; such cases were typical in the regions.

Simultaneously, in many places favorable conditions for the meetings of the pro-government candidates with voters were created; almost everywhere administrative resources were used for this purpose. Campaigning for loyal candidates involved representatives of local executive committees, heads of government agencies, organizations and enterprises.

State-related agencies were engaged in providing support for one of the five candidates in Brest-Zakhodniaya district #1, executive manager of the "Brest Central Department Store" JSC Viktar Valiushytski. His meetings with voters were held at state-owned enterprises during working hours, with the participation of representatives of Leninski District Executive Committee of Brest. Administrative resources were also used to arrange meetings with voters of Uladzimir Dzedushkin, candidate in Orsha-Dniaprouskaya district #27, chairman of the District Executive Committee of Orsha, and others.

Production and distribution of printed campaign materials

Public and private printing firms (the Yakub Kolas printing factory, Minsk color printing factory, the "Red Star" JSC, etc.) refused to produce materials that were financed from private campaign funds of opposition candidates. Only 3 of the 31 candidates representing the BPF Party were able to use their campaign funds and print flyers.

Printed campaign materials were nearly invisible in designated areas. There were recorded cases of resistance on the part of officials to placing of opposition candidates’ campaign materials.

Obstacles to campaigning for boycott of elections

Supporters of the boycott of the elections faced obstacles from law enforcement agencies; there were repeated cases of confiscation of campaign materials. For distribution of printed materials with a call for a boycott of the elections, police detained and convicted Yauhen Hutsalau (7 days of arrest), Yahor Viniatski (7 days of arrest), Pavel Vinahradau (5 days of arrest), Aliaksandr Artsybashau (3 days of arrest) and others. Valery Buival was prosecuted under administrative proceedings and sentenced to a large fine. On September 18 during a rally in favor of boycotting the elections in Minsk law enforcement agents detained about a dozen activists and journalists, including Reuters and Associated Press correspondents, accredited in Belarus.

Appeals and warnings

At the stage of election campaigning, the Central Election Commission received 55 complaints, which mainly concerned the following facts: censorship of candidates’ platforms in the media, failure to broadcast candidates’ addresses, bans on pickets in support of the election boycott, refusal to provide premises for meetings with voters. Complaints by opposition candidates were rejected. The Central Election Commission did not meet the complaint by a number of candidates running in Shklou electoral district #90 against the actions of their rival, deputy chairman of the State Control Committee Alaiksandr Aheyeu, who reportedly uses his official position to conduct his campaign, and others.

At the same time, the district election commissions discriminated against opposition candidates. Warnings were issued to Ales Straltsou, the BPF candidate in Hrodna rural district #52, Andrei Yurkou, candidate in Horki electoral district #82, etc.