"Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections": Authorities use selective approach to electoral campaign
September 11, a press-conference of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" on the occasion of completion of three important stages of organizational measures on preparation and holding of elections, which actually make up half of the election campaign, took place at the office of the HRC "Viasna".
The three stages include the formation of territorial election commissions, the formation of precinct election commissions and the collection of signatures in support of nomination of candidates for President of the Republic of Belarus.
The human rights activists noted that the election campaign was certainly influenced by significant changes in the geopolitical situation in the region caused by the Ukrainian-Russian conflict and the deterioration of the socio-economic situation in Belarus. Representatives of the campaign stated that the current electoral campaign was very similar to elections in 2010, except for the fact that the this year temporary liberalization has started later and was also marked by such events as the release of six political prisoners and the defendants in the "graffiti case", as well as the return of the ex-presidential candidate in the 2010 election, Aliaksei Mikhalevich, to Belarus.
"Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" noted that that they certainly welcomed these steps of the Belarusian authorities, but also remarked that only systemic steps aimed at the improvement of the human rights situation in Belarus could contribute to the establishment of a genuine climate of confidence in the Belarusian society, which is an important factor for holding free and fair elections.
Deputy Head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich drew attention to the process of formation of the election commissions and the use of a "selective" approach in their formation:
"The formation of territorial and precinct election commissions did not show a clear progress in comparison with previous elections: in most cases, the lists of members of commissions were adopted formally, without a real discussion of the candidacies. There are still no criteria for including of not including candidates in the election commissions, which results in a selective approach in the formation of commissions and devalues the norms of the Electoral Code that allow appealing against the non-inclusion of persons in the commissions in court.
All complaints that were filed to courts on this occasion were turned down and could not be granted due to the absence of the criteria. As before, the organizers of the elections in Belarus remain representatives of the five largest pro-government associations and trade unions: the Belarusian Republication Youth Union, the NGO "Belaja Ruś", Belarusian Public Association of Veterans, Belarusian Union of Women and the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus.”
Representatives of these organizations make up a total of 38.8% of the total number of members of territorial election commissions and 35.6% of the total number of members of precinct election commissions. At the same time, representatives of opposition parties are practically not included in electoral commissions: only 6% of their nominees were included in PECs (0.046% of all PEC members) and 15.8% - in TECs (0.5% of all members of the TECs).
The human rights activists noted they hadn't registered any significant restrictions on the part of the authorities during the collection of signatures by the initiative groups of the potential candidates. At the same time, observers registered numerous cases of use of administrative resources in collecting signatures for the incumbent: collecting signatures during working hours on the territory of the enterprises with the direct participation of representatives of the administration as well as the collection of signatures by the persons who weren't members of the initiative group.
"The procedure of verification of signatures is actually closed for observation. This makes it impossible to trust the results of the registration of any presidential candidate, as well as the very process of such verification by the commissions. It is impossible to make a sure statement about the validity or invalidity of all signatures, if only a part of them is selected for verification according to a certain system. A very important moment here is the extent of randomness in the choice of this representative sample. These manipulations are non-transparent and impossible to observe. Meanwhile, our observvers have never been allowed to monitor the procedure of choosing the signatures for verification.
The OSCE recommendations for improving the electoral law, made on the basis of observations of previous election campaigns, have not been taken into account. Also, the CEC did not agree with the proposals of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee to enhance the transparency of the elections by
normalizing the procedure of counting the ballots, issuing observers with copies of the final protocol, certified by signatures of members of the appropriate commissions and their seals and publishing at the website of the Central Election Commission separate information about the results of voting at each electoral precinct,” stated the Chair of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Aleh Hulak.
Representatives of the campaign also stated that they welcomed the decision of the Belarusian authorities to invite for international election observation the missions of the OSCE, PACE and CIS, but regretted their factual refusal to invite representatives of the European Network for Election Monitoring (ENEMO).
Let us remind that the elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus are scheduled for October 11. According to the Belarusian legislation, the country's elections are held for six days, five days are given for early voting and one day is the main day of the elections. The Central Election Commission registered four persons as presidential candidates: Siarhei Haidukevich, Tatsiana Karatkevich, Aliaksandr Lukashenka and Mikalai Ulakhovich.
"Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections"