Analytical report on the results of weekly observation: September 28 – October 4
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".
- Observers in the region state that the electoral campaigning is almost invisible. There are very few printed agitation materials. The most noticeable event was the debate with the participation of three presidential candidates, broadcast on the national television. The incumbent head of the state refused to participate in the televised debates, as well as to speak on the radio and television. Meanwhile, the activities of A. Lukashenka are constantly covered in the state media on the scale that cannot be compared to the air time given to other candidates;
- Various events are held in the regions with the participation of the leaders of both local and central authorities and proxies of the candidate Lukashenka: meetings in labor collectives, visits to enterprises, educational institutions, etc. The main purpose of such events is to encourage voters to support the country's existing policies, as well as to mobilize voters for the elections;
- Observers note the the closed character of the electoral commissions, having to learn about many of their decisions already after their adoption. Refusals of the election commissions to provide observers with relevant information are registered all over the country.
- Trainings for members of precinct election commissions have been held in the regions of Belarus. Observers were given the opportunity to attend them. The stance of the Central Election Commission that observers could take photos and shoot videos only on permission of members of the PEC and were prohibited to be at territorial election commissions during the receipt of the protocols of the results of the voting and the number of the ballots was voiced at the trainings.
- October 2, the CEC held a sitting to consider the complaints filed by the presidential candidate T. Karatkevich and hear appeal for giving her the airtime that wasn't used by A. Lukashenka. The CEC rejected both the complaints and the appeal. The results of the consideration were reflected in the appropriate rulings.
- The lawyers of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" still have not received written responses to the complaints, submitted to the CEC, including those concerning the use by a number of government organizations and media of symbols similar to the ones that are used in the electoral campaign of A. Lukashenka, as well as the fact of violation of the electoral legislation by Lukashenka's proxy, Chair of the Belarusian TV and Radio Company H. Davydzka.
AGITATION FOR CANDIDATES AND MEDIA ACTIVITIES
No massive protest moods are observed. In some places, there are stickers and posters calling for a boycott of the elections.
Aliaksandr Lukashenka's proxies demonstrate a high level of activity, meeting with the electorate in virtually all large towns and cities. As a rule, the electoral meetings are organized with the use of the opportunities of the local executive authorities and the leadership of enterprises. In some settlements electors use the electoral meetings with the high rank officials who are the proxies of
Aliaksandr Lukashenka (in particularly – with the head of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee S. Shapira) in order to solve their everyday problems – the construction of roads, etc.
All national and local media widely publicize and repeat many times information about the speech of A. Lukashenka at the UN.
Observers also report that electoral pickets are held in support of A. Lukashenka, but electors pay no interest to them.
At the same time, local authorities more actively hold all kinds of topical events (such as the day of the elderly in Hlybojaje and Verchniadzvinsk) at which the role of the incumbent in the achievements of the recent years is emphasized. The same task is performed by speeches of officials of various ranks in the national media, such as the short interview given to Belarusian TV by the minister M. Shchotkina (Lukashenka's proxy), who gave a highly positive assessment of the level of the social protection of children and elderly people in Belarus and concrete measures to support
lonely elderly people.
Deputy Prime Minister N. Kachanava visited a number of enterprises and organizations of the Viciebsk region, where she in fact campaigned for the incumbent. The list of official meetings in the Hrodna region is quite eloquent, too: Chairman of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee V. Krautsou (Lukashenka's proxy) met with the personnel of the Hrodna Agrarian University, which was also attended by Chairman of the Hrodna City Executive Committee and Chairman of the Lieninski District Executive Committee of Hrodna; Minister of Agriculture L. Zayats and Deputy Chairman of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee Ivan Zhuk met with the leadership and personnel of the Hrodna State Agrarian University. Minister of Health Care of the Republic of Belarus V. Zharko spoke with teachers and students of the Hrodna State Medical University. The meeting was also attended by executive authorities. The town of Biarozaŭka was visited by the Minister of Architecture and Construction A. Chorny together with the deputy chairman of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee Yu. Shuleika, where they met with workers of the glassworks "Nioman". Mr. Shuleika also met with workers of “Granitex” in Hrodna.
There also continues the so-called nationwide campaign of the state TV channel ONT "We Are Together", which makes use of the symbols of the electoral campaign of the incumbent president. At the same time, Biaroza newspaper “Majak” announces “We Are Together” as a nationwide social-patriotic action held by the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus which supports the election campaign of Aliaksandr Lukashenka: "This event has already taken place in many cities of the country and was a great success. Now it is coming to Biaroza. The town will be visited by Belarusian pop stars...".
Quite noticeable in the regions are the campaign materials and activities of proxies of T. Karatkevich. In general, her campaign events are popular with voters. We should point at a an active participation in the meetings of activists of pro-governmental organizations who are trying to
enter into discussions with the candidate and her proxies, at the same time campaigning for the incumbent president. For instance, on September 30 in Brest, a rally for the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus was held near the building in which an electoral meeting of T. Karatkevich was taking place. Activists of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union and “Bielaja Ruś” tried to interfere with the meeting, speaking about the “gay West, “Pole's card” and the growth of the welfare of Belarusians under Lukashenka's rule.
The electoral campaigning of other candidates is less visible. Observers report about printed campaign materials and a few pickets in support of S. Haidukevich and single meetings in support of M. Ulakhovich, where the latter calls to vote for “stability”, actually not campaigning for himself.
ACTIVITIES OF ELECTION COMMISSIONS
The activities of election commission remain non-transparent. Observers often learn about them post-fact (information from the Maskoŭskaja District Territorial Election Commission of Brest). It is impossible to obtain information about the composition of precinct election commissions from territorial election commissions. It is evidently connected to the fact that many PECs have been formed according to the “professional criterion”, when the head of an enterprise or organization becomes the head of an election commission, while subordinated workers become members of the commission. Observers also report about the regular refusals of the duty members of the election commission to provide them with the necessary information. The information about the cash payments to members of TECs for the whole period of their activities is carefully concealed, too.
On September 30, trainings for heads of PECs were held in the Lieninski and Kastryčnicki districts of Mahilioŭ. The organizers answered the question whether observers had the right to take photos at PECs by saying that such a right belonged only to accredited journalists. An observer who asked whether observers could attend the passing of the protocols with the results of the voting and the number of the ballot papers to TECs, also received a negative answer. Such training were also held in other regions of Belarus.
In Brest, there is a tendency to “compensate” the accreditation of independent observers by the subsequent accreditation of a number of observers from pro-government organizations at the same PECs, whereas other PECs don't enjoy such a large number of observers.
In the Brest region, an observer reports about the onset of pressurization on the part of the employer due to his activities as observer.
The activities of the authorities on drawing voters to early voting is observed all over the country. In the Viciebsk region (we have information from Viciebsk and Orša) parent-teacher conferences are appointed on the days of early voting. The advertisements about the conferences inform the parents that they need to bring their passports. Taking into consideration the fact that the polling stations are located in the schools, the reasons for the appointment of the conferences are quite clear and can be explained by the desire to organize an early voting of parents.
CONSIDERATION OF COMPLAINTS AND APPEALS
October 2, the Central Election Commission held a sitting, at which, in particular, complaints of the presidential candidate Tatsiana Karatkevich and her appeal for giving her the additional air time on public radio and television were considered. The decisions of the CEC on the complaint and appeal were issued by rulings No. 81, 82 and 83.
In her complaints to the CEC T. Karatkevich alleged violations of the rules of campaigning and the principles of equality of all the candidates by the candidate A. Lukashenka and demanded that he be issued with a warning in accordance with the provisions of the electoral law.
To support her complaint, T. Karatkevich reported about the use of the "tick" sign, drawn among the ornament and colors of the national flag of the Republic of Belarus by the state media and the Belarusian Telegraph Agency in reports and columns about the elections, in the application for smartphones "Elections 2015", developed by the Belarusian Republican Youth Union, during the conduct of the series of concerts "We Are Together" and in the campaign materials of A. Lukashenka. She also reported on the sale of T-shirt with the slogan of the campaign of the candidate A. Lukashenka “For Future of Independent Belarus!”, produced by the open JSC “Svitanak” at the central department store (CUM), that were not manufactured for the money from the electoral fund of the candidate.
In the second complaint T. Karatkevich pointed at the fact of holding of the fifth assembly of military officers and the adoption by its participants of an appeal to officers and their families with the call to support the candidacy of the incumbent. The appeal was published at the website of the Ministry of Defense on September 25. Tatsiana Karatkevich believes that this appeal had features of agitation.
Having considered the complaints and the appeal of the presidential candidate T. Karatkevich, the CEC Commission dismissed them.
In its ruling No. 81 regarding the outcome of the consideration of a complaint of T. Karatkevich the CEC stated that the aforementioned sign in the form of a “tick” was developed by the Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BelTA) in 2010, it was used during the earlier elections and was again placed at the website of the agency in at the beginning of the electoral campaign in 2015. Later on, many mass media independently decided to use similar symbols during the coverage of the electoral campaign: the TV channel ONT in the drawing of the title of the action “We Are Together” and by the members of the initiative group of the candidate A. Lukashenka. Therefore, the CEC stated that the allegation that the aforementioned symbol is associated with a concrete candidate didn't correspond to the reality. Moreover, the sale by the open JSC “CUM Minsk” of men's T-shirts with the slogan “For Future of Independent Belarus!”, produced by the open JSC “Svitanak”, is nothing but “a usual commercial activities of an industrial and commercial organization, and the imprint on the T-shirts is a usual designer decision.”
Experts of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" believe that these facts witness a gross violation of the provisions of the existing electoral legislation during the campaigning for the presidential candidate Aliaksandr Lukashenka. The use of a symbol, analogical to the sign used during the agitation for the election of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, by a number of state-run, public organizations and mass media during the organization of various events dedicated to the topic of the elections is either aimed at encouraging or encourages voters to vote for the this candidate.
The sale by the JSC “CUM Minsk” of T-shirts with the slogan “For Future of Independent Belarus!”, produced by the open JSC “Svitanak”, is also associated with the presidential candidate Lukashenka, as the slogan is identical to the one that is used in his electoral campaign. This action is either aimed at encouraging or encourages voters to vote for this candidate and thus contains features of election campaigning. According to the electoral legislation, all materials of the electoral campaign of a candidate must be produced for the funds taken from the electoral fund, established by the presidential candidates.
In our opinion, these fact evidence a violation by the presidential candidate A. Lukashenka,of the rules of electoral campaigning established by Art. 45, 46 and 48 of the Electoral Code. Therefore, the CEC was to have issued the candidate Lukashenka with a warning, as provided by Art. 49 of the Electoral Code.
It should be noted that representatives of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" previously also complained to the CEC about violations of the rules of campaigning by the presidential candidate A. Lukashenka, including the use by the initiative group for the nomination of the candidacy of A. Lukashenka, and later – in the campaign materials of the candidate, of a symbol that is analogical to the one standing the drawing of the action “We Are Together” at the TV channel ONT, as well as concerning the sale of T-shirts with the slogan of his electoral campaign by the JSC “CUM Minsk”. We still haven't received any reply in writing. Moreover, there is still no written answer to the electronic appeal, filed by the lawyer of the campaign Pavel Sapelka, regarding the participation of a proxy of A. Lukashenka, the head of the Belarusian TV and Radio Company H. Davydzka in the program “Editors' Club” on September 11. Let us remind that after considering the complaint on September 24, the CEC issued a strict warning to H. Davydzka for violating provisions of the electoral legislation. It's worth noting that Art. 49 provides for issuance of a warning to the candidate, not to his proxy. Moreover, the consideration of this complaint wasn't registered by an appropriate ruling of the CEC. These facts indicate improper consideration of complaints by the CEC.