OSCE observers: the election in Belarus cannot be called free and impartial
Competition was limited and many OSCE commitments on citizens' democratic rights to associate, to stand as candidates and to express themselves freely were not respected in the 18-23 September parliamentary elections in Belarus, OSCE observers say in a preliminary report issued on 24 September, BelaPAN says. The organization intends to prepare a full-scale report within two months.
elections were not administered in an impartial manner and the complaints and
appeals process did not guarantee effective remedy.
“This election was not competitive from the start,” says Matteo Mecacci, the head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's short-term observation mission.
“A free election depends on people being free to speak, organize and run
for office, and we didn't see that in this campaign. We stand ready to work
to take the steps forward that are in our common interest.”
“The lack of neutrality and impartiality on the part of election
commissions severely undermines public confidence in the process,” says Antonio
Milososki, the head of the long-term observation mission of the OSCE Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
“Citizens should feel confident that their votes are counted as cast, but the lack of proper counting procedures or ways for observers to verify the results raises serious concerns.”
While there was an increase in the number of candidates put forward by parties, prominent political figures who might have played a role remained in prison or were not eligible to register because of their criminal record, the observers says. Arbitrary administrative decisions also constrained the field of contestants, limiting voters' choices, the report says.
Despite improvements made to the Electoral Code in 2010 and 2011, Belarus' regulations do not adequately guarantee the conduct of elections in line with OSCE commitments and international standards, state the observers.
On a positive note, political parties could, for the first time, nominate contenders in constituencies where they had no regional office, which increased the number of political party nominations, the report says. Nonetheless, the overly technical application of the Electoral Code resulted in the exclusion of one in four nominees.
According to the report, the election campaign was barely visible throughout the four-week period.
“Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and there is a high number of media outlets, coverage of the campaign did not provide a wide range of views,” the observers say.
“Candidates who called for an election boycott had their free access to media coverage denied or censored. Media coverage focused on the President and government, with minimal attention given to candidates.”
The observers note that while early voting and main voting day procedures were assessed positively, the process deteriorated considerably during the vote count.
“A significant number of observers were not given a meaningful opportunity to observe the count and evaluated the process negatively in a significant number of the polling stations observed,” reads the report.
“The continued lack of properly delineated counting procedures meant
that an honest count could not be guaranteed.”