Analytical report on the results of weekly observation: September 21-27
Observation of the election of the President of Belarus is carried out by activists of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" in the framework of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections".
The phase of election campaigning is still underway. Observers have documented numerous forms and cases of illegal campaigning for Aliaksandr Lukashenka involving government funds. Aliaksandr Lukashenka refused to speak on TV and the radio, arguing that during the election campaign, he is busy with practical matters of the country and foreign visits.
On September 21, an annual European conference on human rights and democracy opened in Warsaw under the auspices of OSCE/ODIHR. Uladzimir Labkovich, coordinator of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections", presented the position of Belarusian human rights defenders on the current presidential election.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists issued a monitoring report on the coverage of the presidential election in the Belarusian media. State-run media, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, adhere to the “old model of election coverage, which is characterized by focusing on the incumbent and giving him positive assessment”, as well as “the work of the Central Election Commission and territorial election commissions”. At the same time, the state-owned electronic media gave more coverage to the upcoming election as compared to the 2010 presidential campaign. “As the campaigning began, some positive changes could be traced in the representation of the incumbents’ opponents and the coverage of their activities. For example, the state-owned media came up with some neutral reports of the candidates’ televised addresses to the voters and their campaigning,” said the report.
The campaign activities of candidates Siarhei Haidukevich and Mikalai Ulakhovich are almost imperceptible across the country, while Tatsiana Karatkevich’s campaign headquarters have demonstrated certain activity. The PECs have sent the voters leaflets with information about the four presidential candidates. There are very few printed campaign materials of candidates, except for campaign materials in support of Lukashenka.
Both in Minsk and in the regions, the observers report the activity of local authorities campaigning for the current President. Lukashenka’s election trustees use administrative resources to arrange and conduct meetings with voters.
On September 24, during his meeting with the faculty and students of the Academy of Veterinary Medicine in Viciebsk, the Minister of Agriculture Leanid Zayats said about the prospects of development of agriculture of the country, the need to support the current head of state and his economic policy. Rector Anton Yatusevich reported that in 2010 96% of the votes cast at the polling stations located within the Academy were in favor of Lukashenka, and said that the Minister could count on further support.
The professors of the Polack State University were told to inform the students about the high achievements of the current government (according to a special leaflet) and to campaign to support the president in the upcoming election.
A meeting with Lukashenka’s trustee Siamion Shapira held at the Maladziečna-based Palace of Culture was appointed in violation of the decisions of the district executive committee of September 8, 2015. According to the decision, campaigning meetings may only be held at the small assembly hall of the Palace, however, the meeting with Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s campaign activist was scheduled in the concert hall.
On September 25, the Homieĺ-based Turyst Hotel hosted a meeting with Siarhei Biaspalau, a trustee of presidential candidate Aliaksandr Lukashenka and editor-in-chief of the local government-run newspaper Homieĺskaja Praŭda. In order to secure attendance, a number of students of the Homieĺ State University were forced to appear. Several professors were also noticed at the meeting. “This is not campaigning, but imitation. Although the imitation reflects the essence of the Belarusian elections. I live near here, so they could have at least posted some ads about the meeting to inform the people, and voters could possibly come. But they just force students and teachers come here. No pickets in the city. On the one hand, silence, on the other hand, imitation of campaigning,” said the campaign’s observer Viktar Adzinochanka.
The Homieĺ city executive committee has banned a street protest that was expected to campaign for the boycott of the presidential election. The official ban received by local human rights activists Anatol Paplauny, Viktar Kazlou and Leanid Sudalenka argues that the applicants did not fulfill legal requirements, in particular failed to arrange healthcare services and a clean-up of the territory. Moreover, the activists were going to demonstrate in the city’s central Savieckaja Street, which, according to officials, is prohibited by law.
The Viciebsk activists of the CCP BPF Party have not yet received a response from the city executive committee to their requests asking for permission to hold pickets in order to inform citizens about the inadmissibility of Lukashenka’s participation in the election.
WORK OF TECs
Polling stations have officially started their work across the country. Formally, citizens have the right to check if they are on the voters’ lists and correct their personal details.
On September 26, the campaign’s observer visited polling station No. 2 in the town of Hlusk. According to the official Election Schedule, by September 26 election commissions were supposed to arrange stands with informational materials about the presidential candidates. However, the observer saw only one campaign poster at the polling station, it advertised Aliaksandr Lukashenka. At the time of the observer’s visit, election officials on duty did not have the necessary voters’ lists, as they were stored at the PEC chairman V. Berazouski. Upon arrival, the chairman immediately reprimanded the officials for allowing the observer approach a table with the documents and asked the observer to move several meters away. According to the observer, none of the persons registered at his apartment was on the list of voters provided by the election commission.
The country’s mass media have widely covered election events arranged by the pro-government NGOs who expressed their support for the current President, e.g. a patriotic action arranged by the Federation of Trade Unions (FPB) “We Are Together!”, a campaign by the Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM) “Our Year – Our Choice!”. Many district government-run newspapers published on their front pages an FPB statement made on September 25. “We call upon all the citizens of our country,” says the statement. “To unite and support Aliaksandr Lukashenka in the upcoming elections <...> Under the leadership of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, Belarus has passed a huge way of development and has proved to be an independent state. It is thanks to the President that our country has preserved peace and order. The Head of State is always on the side of ordinary people. He cares and is worried about the country, he is responsible for the fate of the Fatherland. It deserves a sincere respect of the Belarusian people.” The FPB’s official website also published a report about the meeting of Aliaksandr Lukashenka with employees of the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant in Žlobin, which featured many of his campaigning ideas.
Article 46 of the Electoral Code prohibits employees of mass media to host TV and radio shows, as well as to participate in the media coverage of the election, if these persons are trustees of the presidential candidates. In violation of this rule, Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s trustee and chairman of the Belarusian TV and Radio Company Henadz Davydzka hosted on September 11 a show entitled Editors’ Club, which highlighted the theme of the election. On September 24, head of the CEC responded to the violation, saying that the official had received a “stark warning”. It is yet no clear what legal status the warning can have, as well as why it did not affect candidate Lukashenka but his authorized representative.